Same Sex Marriages – Some questions answered by our Family Law Team

Q. What changes have there been in the law?

  • Until now gay and lesbian couples have been able to enter into Civil Partnerships.
  • The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act was given Royal Assent in July 2013.
  • Section 1 of the Act came into force on 13 March 2014.
  • Because of the requirement to give notice (see below) the first date on which gay and lesbian couples can marry is 29 March 2014.

Q. What are the legal formalities to enable us to get married?

  • You need to give notice at least 15 full days before the wedding day
  • Both of you must be resident in England or Wales for at least 7 days before giving notice
  • Giving notice is done at your local Register Office and involves
    • Attending an appointment with the Registrar who will interview you to confirm your relationship is genuine (and not a sham, for example for immigration purposes)
    • Providing proof of nationality, name & address, date of birth, proof of dissolution of previous Civil Partnership or divorce 
    • Paying a fee of £35 per person
    • Giving details of where and on what date you intend to marry
  • Once you have given notice, the Registrar will display a notice of your intention to marry and if no one objects within 15 days a marriage schedule will be issued. You need the marriage schedule in order to get married
  • You must get married within a year of the notice otherwise you have to give notice all over again!

Q. Can we convert from an existing Civil Partnership?

  • Section 9 of the Act sets out the procedure for converting a Civil Partnership to a marriage
  • BUT Section 9 is not yet in force – the government expects to have the process in place by the end of 2014
  • So, if you want to get married and are already in a Civil Partnership you would need to dissolve the Civil Partnership first (a process similar to divorce)-not in our view worth it unless there are VERY good reasons

Q. Are there any restrictions on where we can get married?

  • Under the terms of the Act each religious organisation must ‘opt in’ i.e. choose whether to offer same sex marriages within their premises
  • The Church of England and Church in Wales are excluded from this – they are not allowed to opt in – so you can’t get married in a church or chapel of the Church of England or the Church in Wales
  • Register Offices and approved premises such as hotels have no restrictions on conducting same sex marriages

Q. Will we be husband and husband or wife and wife?

  • Yes – Section 11 of the Act says that the term ‘husband’ will include a man married to another man and ‘wife’ will include a woman married to another woman
  • As a general rule marriage has the same effect in relation to same sex couples as it has for opposite sex couples. There are some exceptions though
    • Wills and trusts made before the law came into force that refer to a ‘spouse’ or ‘marriage’ will not include parties to a same sex marriage – these documents will need to be updated
    • Equality has not yet been implemented in all aspects relating to pensions, especially concerning survivor benefits i.e. where a pension holder dies and the pension fund pays out a lump sum and/or income to the surviving husband or wife. A review is to be published by the Secretary of State by 1 July 2014

Q. Are there any other things we should consider?
Pre-nups

  • Anyone who is getting married should consider making a pre-nuptial or pre-marital agreement. With the divorce rate at 42% there is, sadly, more chance of a married couple’s relationship breaking down than their house being destroyed by a fire. Most people would insure their house against fire – so why not give some thought to what would happen to your property, savings and other assets if things don’t work out between you?
  • The law now looks more favourably on pre-nups than it did years ago. Increasingly, providing they are properly drafted and both people have had legal advice, they are likely to be binding

Wills

  • You should consider making a will to ensure that proper provision is made for each other and any children, and that Inheritance Tax Issues can be properly managed. 

Buying property together

  • It’s important that you are clear in what shares your property is owned, especially if you have made unequal contributions to the deposit. Our property team can advise you about this.

For any further information or advice contact Louise Law on 0191 243 8163.