When the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force in December 2005, it was expected that between 11,000 and 22,000 couples would enter into a civil partnership in the first five years. However, according research recently published www.guardian.co.uk there had been over 53,417 civil partnerships (often referred to as ‘pink weddings’) in the UK at the end of 2011.
In July, the Office for National Statistics (www.ons.gov.uk, civil partnership statistics, UK 2011) released data showing that the most popular age group in which civil partnerships are formed is 30-34, although numbers are high generally between the ages of 25 and 49, with men being on average 40 and women 38. Whilst the status of the overwhelming majority of people entering into a civil partnership is ‘single’, almost 15% say they have previously been divorced, or had a civil partnership dissolved. Generally, the number of civil partnerships formed has been fairly consistent over the last four years, after the initial rush back in 2005.
Last year, for the first time, there were more lesbian couples tying the knot than gay couples although interestingly, the number of civil partnerships dissolved since 2007 consistently shows a significantly higher number of lesbian couples dissolving their partnership, despite the lower number of lesbian civil partners overall. The data shows that 2.2% of gay partnerships had ended in dissolution at the end of 2011, compared with 4.6% of lesbian partnerships. Sadly, the number of dissolutions generally is rising; 672 partnerships were dissolved in 2011, 28% more than in 2010.
It is unsurprising then that we have seen an increase in the number of people contacting us for advice after separating from their civil partner, and seeking a dissolution. Whilst the Civil Partnership Act virtually mirrors the Matrimonial Causes Act 1974 (which governs divorce law) in the financial (and other) rights it confers on gay and lesbian civil partners, until this year this has not been tested at the highest level. Back in March, in the case of Donald Gallagher and Peter Lawrence, the Court of Appeal made it very clear that the principles to be applied are indeed the same as on divorce, and the central issue under consideration was that one partner had brought the majority of the assets to the relationship, just as it would have been had this been a divorce case.