The legal rights and responsibilities of a same sex couple will differ, depending on whether they live together, are married or have entered into a civil partnership. Marriage or a civil partnership creates legal ties, concerning finances and children. Unmarried couples do not automatically have any legal rights.
Civil partnership dissolution and divorce
The process of ending a civil partnership or same sex marriage is very similar to the process of getting a divorce in the UK. You must have been married or in a civil partnership for one year or more and be able to show that the relationship has irretrievably broken down.
It is important that you also address any money issues alongside the civil partnership dissolution or same sex divorce, as failing to do so could leave you financially exposed in the future.
Call Woolley & Co, solicitors on 0800 321 3832 for advice on civil partnership dissolution, or complete our online form.
Same sex parental rights
Same-sex couples should be clear who the legal, biological and psychological parents of their children are and who has parental responsibility. Not all same sex couples have legal arrangements in place although they intend to live as a family. This often only becomes an issue when the relationship breaks down. Our lawyers have a great deal of experience in ensuring arrangements are in place to ensure that children maintain relationships with their other parent post separation regardless of legal or biological status.
A birth mother will always be a legal parent and have parental responsibility. Whether the other parent will be a legal parent will depend on the circumstances of birth (for example conception via a licenced fertility clinic) and the parents’ relationship status (married or in a civil partnership). A parent’s legal status can be changed after a child’s birth by surrogacy or adoption.
If you are not a legal parent you can still obtain parental responsibility for a child via a parental responsibility agreement, parental responsibility order or a “live with” child arrangements order. Your lawyer will be able to advise you on the best option for you and your family.
Cohabitation rights for same sex couples
Under the law of England and Wales couples who choose to live together rather than enter into marriage or a civil partnership, do not have any automatic legal rights in relation to shared property, savings or possessions. Unfortunately, the myth of the common law husband and wife means that many couples believe they have rights when they have none.
If you choose to live with your same sex partner protection can be provided by a cohabitation agreement. This can record each party’s financial contribution to the relationship and state the intention should the relationship breakdown. In addition, if you are buying property together you will need to ensure you understand the contract you sign, and it reflects your intention to either own the property as tenants in common or joint tenants. It is important to take advice on this.
For free initial legal advice call Woolley & Co, solicitors on 0800 321 3832, or complete our online form.