In August 2010, the Law Society Gazette reported a surge in cohabitation cases, considered to be as a result of the recession. This gave rise to the need for clarity in respect of cohabitees rights upon separation, in respect of both financial issues and children arrangements.
However, on 11th August 2010, Rachel Rothwell commented in the Gazette that perhaps ‘civil partnerships for heterosexual couples could be a good idea’ to provide that legal certainty. This is certainly food for thought.
Whilst it has always been possible for cohabitees to reach an agreement between themselves as to what would happen if they were to separate, is civil partnership really an alternative? If civil partnerships for heterosexual couples was possible thereby granting couples the same tax and financial benefits as a married couple or gay civil partners, consideration would need to be given to the impact this would have upon the status of marriage and civil partnerships.
Civil partnership for gay couples was legislated to provide equality with heterosexual couples who can marry. Both demonstrate a binding commitment from the couple on a practical as well as emotional level. It could therefore be said that marriage and civil partnership are just different labels for the same thing.
If heterosexual couples were able to chose between marriage and civil partnership then surely the equality which gay couples had finally secured with civil partnerships would be lost? To achieve equality again then arguably gay couples should be entitled to marry also.
Further, by establishing what would effectively be a three tier status of relationships i.e. cohabitation, civil partnership and marriage, the rights and responsibilities of each relationship would become more confused and no doubt acrimonious which is exactly what should be avoided.
I would hope that a majority of people would agree that marriage and civil partnership is more than just a piece of paper, contracting two people together ‘til death do they part. I accept that some people who may have been married before unhappily, don’t want to marry again. I also accept that some say getting married was the moment it all started to go wrong. At the end of the day whether couples chose to marry, have a civil partnership, or simply co-habit, is a choice for them – better awareness of legal rights is what is called for so people can make an informed decision that is right for them as a couple – the difficulty comes in asking people who are in love to think with their heads and not just their hearts.
If you need advice regarding the breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership expert legal advice is essential. Stephensons can provide you with expert legal advice to help and assist you. Stephensons provide specialist advice in respect of family disputes and are able to advise you in respect of all the options available to you following the breakdown of your relationship. If you require any assistance please contact our specialist team on 01942 774124.
By family solicitor, Charlotte Faid