It is seven years since the Civil Partnership Act came into force. This allows same sex couples to enter into a civil partnership.

The law on civil partnership puts same sex civil partners in the same legal position as heterosexual spouses so that if a relationship breaks down the Court have power to deal with financial and/or children issues. 60,454 civil partnerships have been registered in the last seven years.

A new Act of Parliament, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 received royal assent in July 2013. This means that the Act is now law and it is expected to be implemented in stages from Spring 2014. For the first time it will be legal for same sex marriage rather than enter into a civil partnership.

Same sex couples can have a civil or religious same sex marriage but can only have a religious wedding if the relevant religious group decides to “opt in”. Every religious group can do so except for the Church of England. A civil partnership will remain an option for same sex couples but not heterosexual couples.

Under the new law civil partners can convert their civil partnership into a marriage if it was registered in England and Wales.

With the right to marry comes the right to divorce and the grounds will be the same as for heterosexual couples with one important exception. Where adultery is relied upon as the reason for the breakdown of the marriage, the adultery must have taken place with a member of the opposite sex. If the adultery was with a member of the same sex, adultery is not an available ground.

The change in the law is an important step forward from a social perspective. From a legal perspective the change will mean complexity for solicitors dealing with Family Law issues. The change highlights the continued need to obtain specialist advice from a solicitor in the ever-changing world of Family Law.

If you would like further advice or guidance on same sex marriage please contact our Family Law Team at Ringrose Law Solicitors at our offices in Boston, Grantham, Lincoln, Newark, Sleaford and Spalding.

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