A fall in the number of Civil Partnerships: what does it mean?
It has recently been reported that following the introduction of marriage for same sex couples in March 2014 the number of civil partnerships formed in England & Wales has fallen by 70% from 5,646 in 2013 to 1,683 in 2014. The latest figures can been seen in the recent bulletin from the Office for National Statistics here.
Such a reduction does make you wonder whether or not in the future civil partnership will become obsolete.
Civil partnership and same sex marriage: what are the differences?
Whilst from the point of view of principle and perception there are perhaps significant differences between civil partnerships and marriage from a legal point of view they are actually relatively similar.
The Government has published a comparison document and this gives a helpful summary.
A lot of the differences come down to terminology, for example, the process for a divorce (in terms of a marriage) and for a dissolution (in terms of a civil partnership) are effectively the same and both types of relationships give each partner certain legal rights in respect of the other and potential claims to the other’s property.
One of the big differences in terms of marriage and civil partnership is that civil partnerships avoid any reference to sexual intercourse and specifically a civil partner cannot rely on adultery in order to dissolve the civil partnership nor can they rely upon the fact that the other party was suffering from any venereal disease in a communicable form to annul that partnership.
So what is the future for civil partnership?
There were artificially high levels of civil partnerships in 2006 which were formed immediately after the Civil Partnership Act which may well have been the result of lots of couples in a long standing relationships taking the opportunity to formalise their relationship as soon as the legislation came in. Thereafter civil partnership numbers fell to an average of 1,400 to 1,600 per quarter.
It may be that by next year there are even less people choosing to formalise their relationship as a civil partnership, however, it may continue to be a preferred option for those who perhaps do not necessary like the religious, social or political connotations of marriage. In any event we will continue to have the civil partners who have already chosen to form a civil partnership and not convert this to a marriage. If we were to abolish civil partnership how should they be dealt with? There are some people who believe that the better and fairer way to deal with this is to leave open both options but to make them available to both same sex and heterosexual couples.
The Government did publish a report on reviewing the future of civil partnership and/or whether they should be abolished in June 2014 and the same is available here. For now at least it does not appear that there will be any immediate change in England & Wales. There is, however, currently running in Scotland a consultation about future of civil partnership and whether or not civil partnerships should be phased out and/or alternatively whether they should be open to heterosexual couples. That is due to run until December of this year and subject to the outcome of that it may be that this brings about a change in Scotland which may in turn be followed by England and Wales.