The Civil Partnership Bill 2009 was published on the 26th June last. The Bill introduces significant new provisions in relation to the rights and remedies of same sex and cohabitating couples, including property, pension and succession rights.

Some of the key aspects of the Bill include:

  • the establishment of a statutory civil partnership registration scheme for same sex couples and the granting of a wide range of rights, protections and obligations consequent upon registration. The Bill also provides for the dissolution of the partnership and the steps which need to be taken to achieve this.
  • a civil partner will have the legal right to claim from the estate of a deceased partner whether or not they have made a will;
  • the introduction of the concept of a "shared home" as opposed to a "family home" - where partners share a home ( irrespective of who actually owns it) a civil partner will not be able to sell it or offer it a security for a loan, without the prior written consent of the other civil partner;
  • a pension scheme which provides a benefit for a spouse is deemed equally to provide a benefit for a civil partner;
  • the provision of a redress scheme for cohabitating couples (both same sex and opposite sex couples). It will be possible for Cohabitants to apply to court for a range of orders, including maintenance orders, pension adjustment orders and property adjustment orders;
  • a provision that that a same sex cohabitant of a deceased person has the same right as an opposite sex cohabitant of a deceased person to seek damages in the event of his or her cohabitant's wrongful death;
  • the recognition of cohabitant agreements concerning financial matters where certain conditions such as the obtaining of independent legal advice are fulfilled.  

Comment

The above rights and protections provide just a flavour of what is an extensive array of protections in the Civil Partnership Bill available to couples who are not legally married. When enacted, these provisions will have a significant impact on the law and practice in many areas, including family, probate and property law.