Before 2005, it was impossible for gay and lesbian couples in a committed relationship to be regarded by the law in the same terms as a heterosexual couple.
Happily we have moved on since then the law now recognises committed same sex couples in the same way as their married heterosexual counterparts, but you may be left wondering exactly what this means.
Commitment in a relationship may not mean you want to commit to a Civil Partnership or marriage, or you may want to know more information before you take the steps to such a commitment. To find out more please read our answers to questions often asked by people in the same position as you:-
Your Questions Answered
Its love but we are not ready for the whole Civil Partnership or marriage ceremony – what should we do and where do we stand?
If this is where you are, then you may be at the stage where you are thinking of moving in together. This is a big step and should not be taken lightly. Before you take any leap to a long term commitment you should consider who has the greatest capital assets? How would you wish these assets to be divided if you split up? At Crisp & Co we can provide you with a Pre-CIP, (Pre-Civil Partnership Agreement) or Pre- Nuptial Agreement which will spell out the details in the unhappy event that the relationship doesn’t work out, or if it does but you don’t wish to commit to a Civil Partnership or marriage.
OK, so it was love but I want to move on now!
This is a common problem for gay and lesbian couples who have moved in together and who have not entered into a Civil Partnership, but now want to go their separate ways, without the benefit of a Pre-CIP. If you are the partner who had property at the start of the relationship, then beware as your former partner may have legal rights over that property. If you are the partner who moved in and then made financial contributions to a property, you may also have legal rights over the formerly shared home. The law in this area is governed by the Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustee Act 1996 (or TOLATA).
For more information see our cohabitation page.
We are splitting up but what about the children?
If you are splitting up, and you have children, then your foremost concern is bound to be the welfare of your children.
The arrangements for your children will be governed by the Children Act 1989 and therefore are exactly the same as those relating to married couples.
What happens if one of us dies or if we live long enough, what happens to the pension?
Unless you are in a registered Civil Partnership or marriage, then in the event of your death (unless you have made a Will) all your estate will legally pass to your next of kin, so that usually means Mum and/or Dad and/or your siblings or else some other relative. If you want your pension to pass on to your partner, you will have to specify that this should happen and in some cases this would mean having to enter into a formal agreement.
OK, we are going to tie the knot- what does that mean?
Same sex couple now have the option of entering into a Civil Partnership or marriage. This is a huge step that should not be entered into lightly as with it comes the legal benefits (especially in relation to property, children, inheritance & pension rights) but there are also legal responsibilities. There is, a one year bar to dissolution or divorce which means you cannot get formally terminate the relationship in the first year of the union.
We want to untie the knot- help!
If the worse comes to the worst, then we have the expertise and experience to get you the best outcome for you and your family.
The procedure for dissolution of a Civil Partnership or same sex marriage is exactly the same as for a divorce. You will have to make an Application to the Court but this does not mean that you will have to go to Court, that will only happen in the event that you cannot reach agreement on how your joint financial assets are to be divided.
If it is necessary to make an Application to the Court, you will be required to attend at least one appointment to consider if mediation is a suitable way in which to resolve the issues surrounding your separation.
At Crisp & Co we are committed to dealing with the process of dissolution in the most amicable manner possible, so we have solicitors who are trained mediators and who practice what is known as collaborative law.
How much will your advice cost?
Unfortunately there is no straightforward answer to this question. The legal costs depend on the length of time it takes to reach agreement both in respect of the dissolution and the division of the family finances on a breakup. However, at Crisp & Co we pride ourselves on offering the most competitive rates for the best expertise, often charging only half the rates of similarly qualified solicitors.
We do understand that it is important that you know from the outset what your legal fees are likely to amount to. For this reason we provide each and every client with a bespoke costs plan and time estimate from the very first appointment with regular updates as needed.
For those clients who have a need to limit costs to a certain sum, we are also offer a ‘pay as you go’ service, whereby work is limited to a certain cost limit set by the client.
You will not be charged for your initial appointment at Crisp & Co. We can find out what your needs are and how we can help you and also give you an estimate of your likely overall legal fees, including expenses and VAT. Contact us for more information.
What should I do next?
Get in contact with us. We have offices located around London and the South East. Call or email us now to arrange your free initial one hour consultation.
Is there anything I need to bring with me to my first appointment with you?
It is useful if you provide us with:-
- Your passport or photo identity driving licence plus another proof of identity with your name and address, such as a recent utility bill.
- Your certificate of civil partnership – if you have it.
- Any letters or documents that have been sent to you by your partner/husband/wife’s solicitors.
- Any documents that have been sent to you by the Court.
Don’t worry if you cannot provide the information listed above at the first appointment, this can always be given at a later date. However, the more information you can provide us with, the better we will be able to advise you.