Gay Couple Take Legal Advice After Being Told To Dissolve Civil Partnership Before They Can Marry

Specialist Lawyers Ask Government To Implement Procedures To Allow Civil Partnerships To Be Converted Into Marriage

24.01.2014

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

A gay couple wishing to convert their civil partnership to marriage when the new same sex marriage laws come into force in March are considering legal action against the Government after finding out that under current legislation they would have to get a dissolution first.
 
Michael and Paul Atwal-Brice, from Thurnscoe, Barnsley entered into civil partnership in 2008 as marriage was not an option available to same sex couples at the time. Like many same sex couples, they were delighted when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was passed and same sex marriage became lawful and planned to become one of the first couples to convert to marriage when the legislation comes into force on 29 March 2014.
 
However, the couple have been forced to instruct specialist family lawyers at Irwin Mitchell after being told that because of delays in implementing parts of the Act, they would have to get a formal dissolution before they could marry.

Irwin Mitchell has now written to the Department For Culture, Media & Sport to inform the Government of potential Judicial Review action if the issue is not resolved satisfactorily.
 
Irwin Mitchell argues that the there are breaches of British equality and human rights law and that the Government has failed to take into account all relevant considerations when creating the gay marriage laws.
 
The law firm is asking the Government to confirm the timetables for when Section 9 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 is to be brought in to allow couples wishing to convert their civil partnerships into marriage to do so.
 
Zoe Round, a specialist family lawyer at Irwin Mitchell solicitors in Sheffield, said: "Our clients are naturally devastated at the prospect of having to go through a formal dissolution before they can get married. They had been waiting for this legislation to be agreed for years and now, at the final hurdle, are finding that the process just doesn't seem to have been thought through.
 
"All necessary considerations should have been taken into account by the Government before the announcement was made that the first same sex marriages could happen from 29 March 2014. 
 
"We have written to the Government to ask them to implement the process of conversion from a civil partnership to a same sex marriage as was intended by parliament in section 9 of the act, so that couples that want to marry don't have to go through a dissolution of their civil partnership before their ceremony.
 
"Why should they be forced to get a dissolution just to re-marry? It seems absurd and we are supporting them in their fight to remedy the situation. If the issue cannot be resolved then we may have no choice but to seek a Judicial Review in the High Court."
 
The couple who had already planned much of their wedding before learning of the issue say that being unable to marry because of a delay in designing the marriage forms, and implementing the computer systems, is unfair.
 
Paul, 34, who has two adopted disabled sons with partner Michael, 29, said: "We’re being penalised because we’re already in a civil partnership. No couple should be asked to divorce or dissolve to be able to get married. To dissolve a civil partnership, you have to go to court, and you have to have a valid reason.
 
"Wanting to stay together and be married is hardly a valid reason to dissolve a civil partnership. It’s not just the principle of the situation; there are legal and practical difficulties if we were forced to divorce.
 
"A lot of people are just simply not aware of this rule but to get married on 29th March 2014 you have to provide notice on the 13 March which is not far away at all. It’s just totally unfair and we have been left with no choice but to seek legal advice to try and resolve this issue."

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