Rupa Parekh, Solicitor at niche matrimonial law firm Benussi & Co Ltd, considers the effect of the Supreme Court Ruling on Civil Partnerships.
“The recent Supreme Court’s ruling states that the Civil Partnership Act needs to be reformed because it is currently discriminatory to heterosexual couples and therefore in contravention of Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights taken in conjunction with Article 8 of the Convention.
Heterosexual couples can only enter into the institution of marriage as a legal recognition of their relationship. The rights associated with marriage are far greater than those of cohabitants. Individuals marry for many reasons being love, children, religious views, family pressures, economic and legal protection and so on.
Civil partnership is similar to marriage but is said to bring an equality into the commitment of two individuals by removing the traditional aspects of religion usually found within a marriage ceremony. Effectively this removes the need for modern relationships to conform to ‘old fashioned’ or religious values, which may not sometimes place women in an equal position to men.
Launched as a petition by Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld, the ruling could make Civil Partnerships popular to heterosexual couples. The Supreme Court ruled that the government has no real cause to limit civil partnerships to a small section of society, it is incompatible with Human Rights and as such it was decided that there should be equality.
Marriage for most does have its benefits, with many couples still very keen to take vows and make declarations in front of a cleric, despite the somewhat sexist connotations involved of women being ‘given away’ in most traditional ceremonies by one man to another, father to their husband-to-be.
On the other hand, there were many people who considered civil partnerships had the potential to have adverse connotations because of the association with homophobia from a much more recent past.
For years marriage has been the only option to adopt for many couples for a number of reasons, including tax benefits, inheritance and decision-making rights during times of critical illness. Cohabiting couples do not have the same benefits.
So what about divorce?
Whilst many will be celebrating the new ruling, there will also be those who will evaluate the options of how things are affected should they decide to separate. A dissolution of a civil partnership is very similar to a divorce. Finances and children’s issues would be handled in a similar way compared with the legal processes of divorce. The only key issue that really changes is the word ‘marriage’ and all that encompasses. Religious and historical canon law would no longer be aspects taken into consideration either at the time of making or dissolving a civil partnership.
Pre-nuptial agreements enable a couple planning to marry to set out their rights and obligations to each other in the event that the marriage breaks down. Children, property, investments and pensions can all be agreed before marriage. Upon a divorce, pre-nuptial agreements are considered by the court and remain at the Judges’ discretion, with each case evaluated on its merit and unique circumstances.
Similarly, pre-partnership or pre-registration agreements enable civil partners to regularise their relationship in the event of a future break down. These agreements are awarded by the courts in the same way as pre-nuptial agreements.”
Anyone wishing to discuss a pre-nuptial or pre-registration agreements or the dissolution of civil partnerships, please do call 0121 248 4001 to book an initial consultation. Alternatively, please browse the website for more details on the services available.