Government considers implementing changes to civil partnerships

Government considers implementing changes to civil partnerships

The government is currently consulting on a review of civil partnerships following the Private Members’ Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths Bill.

The Bill is primarily seeking for civil partnerships to be made available to opposite-sex couples. Although current provisions for same-sex civil partners on relationship breakdown are almost identical to those for spouses, there is some opposition to civil partnerships being extended to heterosexual couples. Due to heightened public interest in the proposals, the government have stated that they are committed to resolving the issue in a sensitive manner as soon as they are able.

The Bill also seeks to prompt the government to consider whether, when parties get married, both spouse’s parents should be included on marriage certificates for each party to a marriage or civil partnership. Marriage registers have been maintained in churches in England and Wales since the 16th century and, since 1837, the marriage register entry has included each spouse’s father’s name and occupation but not their mothers. During the second reading debate it was noted that any alterations would need to allow for all of the different family circumstances in society, for example, for same-sex parents to both be registered. If successful, the proposed reform may mean that couples are no longer able to sign an official register on the day. Instead, after the marriage the couple may be required to take a completed marriage schedule to their local register office where their details will be registered. A single electronic register may also be maintained, which would replace the current system of registers being held in individual churches.

Furthermore, the Bill proposes that parents of stillborn babies have the opportunity to register these births and for coroners to have the power to investigate stillborn deaths. Currently, parents whose babies are stillborn after 24 weeks can register the baby's name and receive a certificate of registration of stillbirth. In contrast, when a pregnancy ends before 24 weeks, there is no formal process for parents to legally register the loss. It is understood that registration certificates are often valued by parents as a way of recognising and naming their stillborn baby. With regard to coroners’ powers, currently they can only investigate the deaths of babies who show signs of life after being born and not babies who die before or during labour.

The Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 19th July 2017 and had its second reading in the House of Commons on 2nd February 2018. The Bill has now been committed to a Public Bill Committee for consideration and will have to return to Parliament for the Bill to be debated again.

Civil partnerships are governed by laws which are similar to those that cover marriage. Our specialist team of lawyers can advise you on all aspects of civil partnerships if you are thinking of entering a civil partnership or if you are in a relationship that has broken down. Clients may also wish to consider a ‘pre-registration agreement’ which works in the same way as a ‘pre-nuptial agreement’. Our experienced solicitors will be able to provide you with all the advice you need to help you make informed decisions about how to proceed. Please contact a member of our team on 01622 690691.