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Civil partnerships – has the reality surpassed the expectation?


The background … a recap

Same sex relationships have come an extremely long way in the past 60 years. As recently as July 1967, sex between men was a criminal offence. The legislation regarding same sex relationships was therefore significantly different from that regarding heterosexual relationships. Through the decades, various legislative changes have been made to align the relationships in law. However, same sex couples were denied any recognition of their relationships until 2001 when Ken Livingstone (Mayor of London at the time) set up Britain’s first register for same sex couples. Although this did not give same sex couples any legal rights akin to those marriage gives, it was instrumental in forcing the minds of the public and Parliament alike to the legal discrimination was which taking place.

A year later, The Civil Partnerships Bill 2002 was introduced. This then became the Civil Partnerships Act 2004. This Act gave same sex couples the right to enter into civil partnerships and afforded the same rights as married couples in relation to various legal matters including some benefits and the ability to apply for Parental Responsibility in respect of their partner’s child(ren). Whilst the gay community welcomed this legislation, it was not without controversy; various religious leaders and politicians opposed it on the basis that same sex unions should not be afforded the same rights and recognition as married couples for fear that the institute of marriage would be undermined.

The expectation

In the interim period between the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 receiving Royal Assent and coming into force, there were doubts about how popular civil partnerships would be. The government did not expect a large amount of couples to want to enter into civil partnerships. Meg Munn, the Minister for Equality in 2005 confirmed that the government expected just 4,500 couples to enter into civil partnerships in the first year they were available. Ministers also estimated that in the region of 11,000 – 22,000 civil partnerships would have been entered into by 2010.

The reality

However, these estimates have been eclipsed. Since December 2005, over 53,000 civil partnerships have taken place in Britain. Over 16,160 civil partnerships were arranged in the first year of their introduction, one of these being the famous union of Sir Elton John and David Furnish. Since 2006, the number of civil partnerships taking place has fallen to around 6,000 – 7,000 per year.

The happily ever after … or not

As with marriage, not all civil partnerships have led to a happy ever after ending. As the number of civil partnerships taking place has increased, the number of dissolutions has also increased. Last year there was a 28% increase in dissolution. As civil partnerships are a new concept and civil partners have to be united for a year before they can apply for dissolution, these figures may not be an accurate reflection of the long term ‘success rate’ of civil partnerships.

The future

Whilst civil partnerships have been five times more popular than expected during the period since they were introduced, it appears that the number of civil partnerships taking place each year has levelled out after the initial boom.

The number of dissolutions of civil partnerships taking place each year should also level out over the next few years meaning that the significant percentage increases year on will hopefully become a thing of the past.

Civil partnerships may not be the final chapter for the unions of same sex couples. The government has further plans to equalise the unions of same sex and heterosexual couples with the introduction of gay marriage. However, in the current political climate, it remains to be seen whether the government will action these plans or whether they will be shelved.

How can we help you?

At Clarion, we are able to assist with all of the legal aspects of civil partnerships such as pre-nuptial agreements, post-nuptial agreements and dissolution. If you are interested in discussing any of these aspects with us, or indeed, any other family-related matter, please contact us on 0113 2460622.

Disclaimer: Anything posted on this blog is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any general or specific matter. Please refer to our terms and conditions for further information. Please contact the author of the blog if you would like to discuss the issues raised.