The Civil Partnership Act 2004 will come into force on the 5th December 2005 and will allow same sex couples throughout the UK to register their partnerships.
Civil Partnership is not exactly the same as marriage but will give the same legal benefits as marriage. The benefits of registration will include:
-equal treatment for tax purposes, including inheritance tax
-recognition for immigration purposes
-rights to survivor’s pension
-next of kin rights
-exemption from testifying against each other in court
-court administered dissolution process
-domestic violence protection
-automatic revocation of will on registration of partnership
-on intestacy surviving partner automatically inherits their partners property
-maintenance on dissolution
In addition to benefits come responsibilities. Registered partners will be able to gain responsibility for each other’s children, will have a duty to provide reasonable maintenance for their partner and any children of the family. They will also be treated jointly for income-related benefits.
If you don’t formally register your partnership what rights do you have as a gay couple? The answer is that there are virtually none. Sometimes general legal principles will be applied particularly as regards ownership of property. The legal concepts which apply to separation of UNMARRIED (gay or straight) couples are just the normal 'property' and 'trust' law which only look at the financial contribution and intention of the parties.
The main advantages of registering include next of kin rights and being able to pass on your estate to your partner tax free if you die. You also have the comfort of knowing that if things go wrong there is a legal procedure for assisting your separation. Long term partners can have all sorts of difficulties untangling their affairs. Disadvantages include that you will become financially responsible for your partner if they fall on hard times (ie your income will be taken into account in assessing their benefits). All in all the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages so we would recommend that if you are in a serious relationship that you register your partnership!
You need to be a same sex couple but not necessarily living together. You must also be 16 or over (parental consent required if under 18). You must not already be married or in a registered partnership. You must also not be too closely related. If one or other partner is subject to UK immigration control, there may be restrictions in terms of their forming a civil partnership. They may need to gain entry clearance in order to come to the UK and register their partnership.
After 5th December 2005 to register a partnership couples will need to go to the registration service to give formal notice in person of their intention to register their partnership. They will be able to register 15 days after giving this notice, during which time the registration service will check their eligibility. After this, couples will form their civil partnership by signing a document in the presence of a registration officer and two witnesses. A statutory fee is payable.
Partnership can be registered in any premises licensed to carry out registrations, not just a registry office. For a list of licensed venues or for further details you can contact your local council or registry office, or the General Register Office (see below).
No registration ceremony is specifically required however couples can arrange a ceremony in addition to the registration procedure if they want to. Local authorities have been encouraged to allow such ceremonies should couples want them. Religious services are not allowed during the registration process. Couples wanting to have a ceremony will have to discuss what they want to say with the registrar. If the ceremony is being offered by the local authority, they will need to agree the content. The words themselves will have no legal significance.
After registration couples will legally be ‘civil partners’. There is no provision in the act to enable either partner to change their name but this can be done by separate deed poll if required.
If a partnership fails then there is a court based ‘dissolution’, process equivalent to the divorce procedure in marriage. The partner applying for the partnership to be dissolved will have to show that there has been an irretrievable breakdown in the relationship. Rights and responsibilities on dissolution will include fair arrangements for property division, residence arrangements and appropriate contact with children.
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