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Civil partnerships were created back in 2004 to give same-sex couples similar legal and financial protection to what married couples benefitted from.

 

Recently a campaign to make civil partnerships available to everyone reached the Supreme Court. This was led by Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld, a couple who wanted to make a commitment to each other without getting married.

 

Fast-forward almost a year and Parliment has now approved new legislation meaning that as of next year, mixed-sex couples are going to be able to enter into a Civil Partnership should they wish to, rather than a traditional marriage.

 

This means that both same-sex and mixed-sex couples are going to have the option of entering into a civil partnership to formalise their relationship.

 

Unlike a conventional marriage, there are no religious connotations attached to civil partnerships, making them a desirable option for those who want to recognise their relationship but don’t align themselves with a particular religion. The service itself is different to a marriage as there is no exchanging of vows or hymns. If the relationship doesn’t work out then the civil partnership can be ‘dissolved’ which follows a very similar process to a divorce.

Practical Benefits of Entering into a Civil Partnership

 

  • Civil partners are able to transfer property between each other without creating a large Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax bill. Co-habiting couples would be subject to 40% IHT on anything above the £325,000 allowance.

 

  • Civil partners are able to transfer a proportion of their tax-free personal allowance to the higher earner to reduce their overall income tax bill.

 

  • Civil partners are better placed to claim benefits from a deceased civil partner’s estate or private pension

 

It is important to consider children from a previous relationship when thinking about the benefits of passing on wealth to ensure that they are also provided for. A pre-partnership agreement, also known as a prenuptial agreement, can assist couples who are entering into a civil partnership to map out a plan for their finances.  This is in addition to making a will.

 

Whilst this development is a welcome step forward for equality, it doesn’t address the issue that many couples living together without being married or in a civil partnership are left vulnerable, as they are afforded much less protection in law.

 

Cohabiting couples are the fastest growing household group in Britain and worryingly, a recent survey by Resolution found that two-thirds of unmarried couples living together believed that common-law marriage existed. Unfortunately, this is not the case – the law in England and Wales does not provide protection for cohabiting couples, meaning that many could lose out financially should the relationship come to an end.

 

The good news is that there is a relatively simple solution to give some peace of mind for those living together that would rather not tie the knot.

 

A cohabitation agreement is a document agreed by both parties that sets out division of assets should the relationship breakdown. They are particularly useful if one person owns a property already or has a larger share in a property than the other, if children are involved or if a couple are certain that they will not marry or start a civil partnership any time soon.

 

Other considerations to make would be a ‘Declaration of Trust’ which is specific to property upon death or separation, as well as making a professional will.

 

For further information on protecting your position as a cohabiting couple, advice before entering into a civil partnership or to talk about ending your relationship formally then please speak to our specialist Family Law Team today on 01256 844888.

 

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.