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Gay Couples Right to Marry

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On 10 December 2014 gay couples were given the right to marry,  to convert their civil partnerships into marriages.   Reportedly comedy star Sandi Toksvig and fashion entrepreneur Mary Portas were among the first thousands of gay couples to convert when the law came into effect at 12.01 am.

More details about the change in law can be found here.

In legal terms the difference between the civil partnership and in marriage is limited, however, this issue has long been a political hot potato. Public opinions has changed significantly over the past 30 to 40 years with it being reported that recent polls show that 69% of Britons think that homosexual couples should be able to marry whilst in 1975 just 16% supported marriage for homosexual couples.

One difference is that with a civil partnership you cannot apply to dissolve this on the basis of adultery. With marriage you can base your divorce petition on the other party’s adultery although there can sometimes be difficulties with this if that person will not admit the adultery.

There is one ground for a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership; the marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down.

With marriage there are five ways of showing this to a court:

  1. Adutery
  2. Behaviour
  3. Desertion for more than two years.
  4. Separation for two years or more with the other person’s consent.
  5. Separation for 5 years or more without the other person’s consent.

With civil partnerships there are four ways:

  1. Behaviour
  2. Desertion for more than two years.
  3. Separation for two years or more with the other person’s consent.
  4. Separation for 5 years or more without the other person’s consent.

Most divorces and dissolutions proceed on an undefended basis and are relatively straight forward and dealt with on the papers. If you require further information about divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership please see the relevant section of our website at or contact us.

In terms of the resolution of any financial issues there is no difference between a civil partnership or a marriage.

There is generally a process of disclosure followed by a process of negotiation. This can be dealt with on a voluntary basis making use of such services as mediation or engaging in collaborative law. Collaborative law is a relatively new way of dealing with financial disputes. Rather than dealing with it through mediation where there is an independent mediator who is not permitted to give legal advice each party has their own family lawyer.  Instead of conducting negations by letter or telephone they are conducted by a series of meetings.

As a last resort parties can apply to court which means that if they are not able to negotiate a settlement then a judge will make a decision on their behalf.

There are a number of factors which the court will take into account when making any decision which include:

  1. The welfare of any minor child / children.
  2. Income earning capacity assets and financial resources.
  3. Financial needs obligations and responsibilities.
  4. Standard of living.
  5. Age of each party and the length of the marriage.
  6. Health of each party.
  7. Contributions (financial and non–financial).
  8. Conduct
  9. Loss of certain rights.

Our financial procedure flowchart will provide you with further information. The factors are set out in full at section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act and further details can be found here.

If you wish to convert your civil partnership to a marriage you can choose between a simple process at a register office or a two stage process.  For the first year all couples who formed their civil partnership before March 29 2014 (when same sex marriage was introduced) will be able to receive a £45 fee reduction.  More details can be found on your local council website:

1.  Manchester

2. Cheshire East

3. Trafford

Should you need advice on civil partnerships or gay marriage or any other aspect of family law please contact Maguire Family Law on +44 (0) 1625 544654 or email:

For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: or telephone:

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