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Civil Partnerships More Popular Than Expected – And Dissolutions On The Rise Too

Family Lawyer Says Couple Have Confidence In Civil Partnerships


A family law expert says the continued popularity of civil partnerships and the rise in dissolutions could be due to the confidence gay couples have from knowing the legal system is treating them the same as married couples in terms of tax treatment and on divorce.

More people than expected are entering a civil partnership with over 100,000 people making the legal commitment since they were first available in 2005. The number of dissolutions of civil partnerships is also rising. The number granted in 2011 was 672, an increase of more than 28 per cent over the previous year. And lawyers say the couples will see their cases handled in the same way as divorces.

Alison Hawes, a leading family lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, added: “The rights and responsibilities of civil partnerships were always agreed from the start to be in line with marriages. A Court of Appeal hearing earlier this year also confirmed that financial issues on civil partnership dissolutions would be treated the same as in a divorce, further emphasising that the legal system makes no differentiation between the two.

“The continued popularity in civil partnerships just confirms that the government was right in the first place to introduce them and although there was an initial rush of people who were ‘queuing’ up to get one, they have continued to increase. The confidence couples have in knowing that they will receive the same rights as heterosexual couples being married or going through divorce, means that they feel civil partnerships have real value.”

Alison adds that she believes civil partnerships statistics will eventually fall into line with marriage and divorce rates. She added: “It was always expected that dissolutions would vary in numbers for a few years as some of the pioneers of civil partnerships find that the change in status from living together to having a legal commitment to each other de-stabilises their relationship, as also often happens when long term heterosexual cohabitants suddenly decide to marry.

“We would expect to see civil partnership dissolutions coming into line with the divorce rate. There will be a gradual increase as people form new civil partnerships after dissolutions. Statistics have shown in the past that the more marriages a couple has been through between them, the less likely their marriage is to endure.

“Gay couples face the same pressures and traditional causes of relationship breakdown as heterosexual couples such as falling out of love and infidelity, and simply not getting on now that they are legally committed to each other.”

The latest figures show that 6,795 couples entered into civil partnerships in Britain last year – a rise of 6 per cent. This takes the total number of couples to more than 100,000 people since civil partnerships first became legal in December 2005.

This far exceeds initial official estimates that between 11,000 and 22,000 couples would enter a civil partnership in the first five years.

The new statistics show that in the early years more men than women formed civil partnerships, but the balance has now become more equal since 2009. The average age for people entering a civil partnership is just over 40 for men and 38 for women.

London and Brighton and Hove remain the most popular places for civil partnerships with Manchester and Birmingham next on the list.