I reported in a blog a few weeks ago that 22 July 2016 was a landmark day on the Isle of Man as the legislation allowing same-sex marriages came into force. The Isle of Man has also introduced opposite-sex couples entering into civil partnerships as an alternative to marriage.
The options for formalising your relationship in England and Wales depend on whether you are a same-sex couple or an opposite-sex couple.
Same-sex couples can either enter into a civil partnership or get married. Opposite-sex couples, however, can only marry if they want to formalise their relationship. If the marriage or civil partnership breaks down, then either party can claim financial provision, including a share of the other party’s assets, income and pensions or share the estate of the other on death.
The law for those who do not enter in a civil partnership or marry becomes far more complicated as you would generally only be entitled to share joint assets or establish that you have an interest in an asset owned by the other party. There are no rights to claim on the other’s income and pensions.
The government has decided not to do anything to the civil partnership laws – so they remain discriminatory to opposite-sex couples. This was also to the disappointment of Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keiden. They challenged the government on civil partnerships not being offered to opposite-sex couples, which the courts rejected.
Some people don’t want to formalise their relationships – that is fine and is a matter for them – that applies to same-sex and opposite-sex couples. But there are opposite-sex couples who do not wish to get married but want some legal protection in the event of separation or death, so why should they not have the right just as same-sex couples do by forming civil partnerships?
Some legal changes may occur as the Cohabitation Rights Bill has been put before parliament, but this has stalled.
You should always get advice if you are about to or are living with someone outside a civil partnership or marriage so you know what your rights are. Protection measures can, if necessary, be put in place whether you are entering a Civil Partnership, getting married or intend to live with someone.
The Isle of Man is setting the example to the lawmakers in England and Wales where no change is imminent.
Anthony Jones is Head of Family Law and is a Resolution Accredited Specialist. For more information or a second opinion, please contact him on 0161 641 4555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org