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Family Law - What Are Civil Partnerships?

The UK Civil Partnerships Act was passed in 2005 and represented the first time that same sex couples were allowed the opportunity to legally register their relationships. This meant that, for the first time ever, same sex couples were offered the same legal recognition, rights and responsibilities as their married, heterosexual counterparts.

When a couple enters into a partnership, they are given the status of 'civil partner' which almost exactly corresponds to the status of husband or wife in the eyes of the law. This means that civil partners benefit from the same rules and laws as married couples with regard to tax, inheritance, employment, immigration and nationality and pension benefits. It also means that civil partners have the responsibility to provide reasonable maintenance for their partner in the same way married couples do.

Furthermore, The Civil Partnership Act recognises the couple's right to claim fatal loss compensation should their partner be fatally injured. It also affords civil partners the same legal protection from domestic violence that married partners benefit from. As far as children are concerned, a civil partnership gives one partner the right to apply for parental responsibility of their partner's child in the same way that heterosexual step parents can.

In the eyes of the law, these partnerships represent as serious a commitment as marriage and so should not be entered into lightly. It is sensible to consider the financial implications of entering into the partnership, and partners might consider obtaining the advice of their family law solicitor to draw up a pre-civil partnership agreement which is roughly comparable to a standard pre-nuptial agreement. Although such agreements aren't necessarily upheld in court in the event of the couple breaking up, the family law solicitor can advise on making it as valid as possible.

Should civil partners decide to split up, the process of dissolving a civil partnership is similar to obtaining a divorce. Partners must have grounds for dissolution such as unreasonable behaviour, desertion or two years of separation before the courts will grant a dissolution after which the partners will be free to enter into another civil partnership.

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