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/ 03 Apr 2014

Same-sex marriage becomes law in England and Wales

The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013, hereinafter “the Act”, came into force on 29 March 2014, enabling same-sex couples to marry. The change in law is widely welcomed, as a forward-step for gay rights.

The Act enables couples of the same sex to marry through civil ceremonies. Religious organisations are also able to ‘opt in’ to solemnize marriages by conducting religious ceremonies for same sex couples. Nonetheless, those religious organisations who do not wish to marry same sex couples are protected by the Act, as no discrimination claims can be brought against them for this reason.

Same-sex couples have been able to enter into ‘civil partnerships’ under the Civil Partnerships Act since 2005, which grant many of the same legal rights as marriage. However, campaigners felt that this undermined same-sex relationships and wanted rights equal to those afforded to heterosexual couples.

Once procedures are in place at the end of this year, civil partners will be able to convert their partnerships into marriages. However the government is yet to set a firm date for this. This presents uncertainty for couples wishing to convert their civil partnerships into marriages, who may feel it necessary to dissolve their partnerships in order to marry.

There are very few countries who afford same-sex couples equal marriage rights at present. It is therefore hoped that the change in law in England and Wales will encourage other countries to follow suit.

In practical terms, if married same-sex couples decide to separate permanently, divorce would be an option for them. We can give you sensible advice and ensure your expectations are realistic if you are going through divorce or dissolution. We can also advise on the merits of marriage as opposed to civil partnerships. Civil partners and same-sex spouses might also wish to consider entering into pre-registration and pre-nuptial agreements to set out arrangements for the division of their assets in the event of separation. We are able to provide advice to those considering entering into these agreements. We have a large family department at Hanne & Co, with 15 specialist family lawyers and over 160 years combined experience. Additionally, our Private Client department are able to advise couples on tax planning issues arising upon marriage and civil partnership.

Telephone us on 020 7228 0117 or email info@hanne.co.uk if you would like to discuss your needs further.

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