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Civil partnerships

Since December 5th 2005, a same sex couple can obtain legal recognition for their relationship by entering into a Civil Partnership.

CMG Cunningham Dickey Solicitors Belfast and Bangor offer expert advice to same sex couples considering entering into a Civil Partnership.

Same sex couples are unable to enter into a 'marriage' in this country as under the law 'marriage' is defined as the 'voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others'.

The Civil Partnership Act of 2004 provides same sex couples with the nearest concept to marriage by recognising the parties' commitment to each other and creating legal and financial rights, responsibilities and obligations between the parties, similar to those arising from a marriage.

  • Seek legal advice first

    Before entering a civil partnership it is advisable to seek independent legal advice on the impact a civil partnership will have on you.

    Pre-civil partnership agreements can be discussed and entered into to protect your interests in the event of your civil partnership breaking down. These agreements can help smooth separation and dissolution of the civil partnership. They reduce the stress caused should the civil partnership come to an end.

    A pre-civil partnership is similar to a pre-marital agreement entered into by parties before their marriage.

  • Pre-CP Agreements

    It is crucial to the pre-civil partnership agreement that both parties are independently represented by separate solicitors. It is important that neither party is put under any unreasonable pressure to agree to the terms of the PCPA. Each party should provide complete disclosure of their financial circumstances.

    If these three elements are not present in the PCPA then it will have no binding effect and will not be regarded as an 'agreement'.

    The complexity of the PCPA will determine the cost of creating the document. Contact CMG Cunningham Dickey Solicitors to discuss your needs and receive a personalised quote.

  • Dissolution of partnership

    In the aftermath of a relationship breakdown, our priority as individuals is usually to attend to our emotions. Eventually we turn our minds to the technicalities of separation, looking into separation, the dividing of property and the care and living arrangements of any children.

  • Seeking advice first

    At CMG Cunningham Dickey Solicitors many people we speak to have not yet made a firm decision to dissolve their civil partnership. During our discussions with you, we will talk about your options. This enables you to make an informed decision about what is best for you.

  • Relationship reconciliation

    In today's stressful world it is easy to neglect our relationships, but all my not be lost. At CMG Cunningham Dickey Solicitors, as we take a non-adversarial approach to matters, it is our policy to look at alternatives to dissolution. Our clients often find that this is a useful time to focus on the decision they are making. Occasionally meeting with a counsellor, from an organisation like Relate, can present many options before dissolution becomes the only choice.

  • Informal separation

    An informal separation is living separately, either in separate properties or separately in the same house.

    Usually an informal separation does not involve Court proceedings. At CMG Cunningham Dickey Solicitors we can help you make the most suitable arrangements in respect of your property, money and children if you consider this option. In many cases, this kind of informal arrangement does not require any involvement from the courts and we simply provide you with clear options an suggestions.

    Although the separation is informal, an agreement should be formally drawn up in a legally constructed document called a 'separation deed' or 'separation agreement', which we will negotiate and draw up for you.

    If a separation becomes permanent and you or your partner decide to commence formal proceedings through the Court for dissolution, then it is essential that any deed/agreement is brought to your advisor's attention. This is to enable the agreement to be incorporated into a Court Order.

    A separation deed/agreement cannot be finalised without the express co-operation and agreement of both parties. If agreement cannot be achieved then you may need to seek dissolution of the Civil Partnership, as a court application may be required in order to settle the matter.

  • Dissolution

    Dissolution does involve a Court process. At the end of the process you will receive the Final Dissolution Order which confirms the end of your civil partnership. This document should be kept in a safe place, because if you wish to marry or enter into a new civil partnership in the future you will require the document as proof of your dissolution.

    There are four ways of commencing dissolution proceedings:

    1. Unreasonable behaviour.
    2. Desertion for 2 years.
    3. 2 years separation with the consent of both parties.
    4. 5 years separation not needing the other party's consent.

    There is no ground for adultery on the dissolution of a civil partnership.

    Two years must have elapsed from the date of formation of the civil partnership before any application can be made for dissolution.

    We will advise you on the best way to approach dissolution depending on your circumstances and how to commence the proceedings. We will prepare the necessary paperwork and guide you through the court process, supporting you and ensuring that everything is completely clear for you at every stage.

    It takes about four to six months to obtain a Final Dissolution Order. This is an estimated timescale as it depends on your circumstances and the Court in which you start the dissolution proceedings.

    At CMG Cunningham Dickey Solicitors we advise that you finalise arrangements for your children, money and property at the same time as going through the dissolution process. The dissolution process does not deal with these issues and as a result they must be concluded separately. We can help you with these arrangements.

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Living together agreements

Couples living together believe that they are in a "common law" marriage and/or civil partnership. No such legal status exists. People assume that if they are in a relationship, they acquire the same legal rights as couples who are married or in a civil partnership. That is wrong.

If you live with someone, be that a same sex or heterosexual relationship, the basic rule is that you have no legal rights against them or responsibilities to them.

Whilst that is the basic rule, if you have made financial contributions towards a property or you have children together; things are not as clear cut. In these circumstances you have legal rights against each other but the law in relation to them is extremely complex and, unravelling the financial or other aspects of a relationship to determine what the respective parties rights are against each other, can be time consuming, expensive and extremely stressful.

As more and more couples choose to live together, rather than marry or enter into civil partnership, careful thought should be given to what might happen if the relationship were to break down. As well as protecting both you and your partner from whatever might happen to your relationship in the future, living together agreements can also sort out the day to day workings of living together now and in the future.

Although it is entirely preferable to make a Living Together Agreement when you first move in together, it is never too late to do so. Even if you have been together for 15 years, it is still to and a good idea to enter into a Living Together Agreement.

By making a Living Together Agreement, parties tend to be prompted to discuss how their living together will work in practice and what their expectations are of each other. In fact, many couples find that just making the agreement strengthens their relationship.

Making such agreements also helps to organise the day to day finances of living together. it prompts the parties to the relationship to think about easy and fair ways to divide up day to day costs, avoids niggling arguments about who is paying for what and other disagreements that can sometimes arise during a relationship.

Apart from regulating your day to day living together, a Living Together Agreement is also useful because if you split up it can help you to do so as amicably and and fairly as possible.

Living Together Agreements have a slightly strange status in law. The Courts will not let you sign away rights that the law gives you, but a Court will generally follow what you both agree if:

• it still produces a fair result for you
• you were both honest about your finances at the start and when entering into an agreement
• a Court is even more likely to uphold the agreement if both of you also had some legal advice about what you were doing.

We highly recommend that parties living together make an agreement. This is not a declaration of the fact that you are about to dump each other, but it is reality that even with the best of intentions on all sides, if the relationship does not last and you split up many years down the line it may be impossible at that stage to remember what you agreed with each other in the event of a break up. This may make things even more difficult if you do break up.

It is also the case that complex legal issues can arise as the consequence of living together where, for instance, you buy property together and contribute equally or unequally to the property. It is important therefore to determine the respective rights of each of the parties in such circumstances where the law does not make any assumption about what will happen because your relationship, as it would if you were married or in a civil partnership.

If you are currently not married or in a civil partnership but are in a relationship and intending to live with your partner or, even if you are not in a relationship but are living with someone and buying a property together or sharing the cost of acquiring other assets, contact CMG Cunningham Dickey Solicitors where you will find that experienced and sensible advice is available to help you protect your rights.


Belfast address

18 May Street
BELFAST
County Antrim
Northern Ireland
BT1 4NL
t: 028 9023 4606
f: 028 9032 6578

Bangor address

3 Market Street
BANGOR
County Down
Northern Ireland
BT20 4SP
t: 028 9145 7911
f: 028 9145 0679

Partners

Brian H Speers
Michael Robinson
Jonathan Hewitt

Consultants

Hugh Logan
David Marshall
Michael Body
Keith Cowan

Solicitors

Audrey Atcheson
Mark McAdam
Timothy Haslett
Christopher Jess
Emma Stephenson

The Law Society of Northern Ireland
Law Society Home Charter Scheme
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