Civil Partnership & Cohabitanting Couples

The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 came into force in January 2011 but there is still a lot of confusion over what the act does and does not do.

Civil Partnership

  • Applies to same sex couples only.
  • Must be a public ceremony with at least 2 witnesses and carried out by a properly appointed registrar.
  • The civil partners will live together in a shared home. In the situation where one person owns the property, the other person has the same protections as a non owning spouse under the Family & Shared Home Protection Act 1976.
  • On death, if there is a will, the surviving partner has a right to 1/2 of the estate if there are no children. If there are children, they have a right to 1/3 of the estate but the children can contest this in court (they can’t contest it in the case of a married couple).
  • If there is no will, the surviving spouse has a right to all of the estate. If there are children, they have a right to 2/3 of the estate but the children can contest this in court.
  • A couple in a civil partnership get the same tax treatments of a married couple, including the tax free passing of assets between them in life and in death.
  • Should the relationship break up, they can enter a Separation Agreement. There can be a “dissolution of the relationship” i.e. divorce, where the couple have been living separate and apart for 2 of the last 3 years.
  • The same reliefs are available as to married couples e.g. maintenance, pension adjustment orders , inheritance rights…

Cohabitant Couples

  • Applies to both gay and heterosexual couples who are in a committed relationship.
  • What is committed?
  1. Living together for at least 2 years if you have children together or 5 years otherwise.
  2. There is an element of financial dependence
  3. Unless…one or both of you were married to someone else and you have not lived away from that spouse for at least 4 of the last 5 years.
  • Cohabitant couples do not get the same tax treatment as civil partners. The only relief granted is on the break up of a relationship. Tax relief is granted on maintenance payments, if instructed by the Court. It does not apply to informal arrangements. If the Court instructs the transfer of an asset, there is no stamp duty or CAT liability.
  • On death, a Court can order a payment from the estate of the deceased if they feel that the surviving cohabitant was not adequately provided for.
  • Pension Adjustment Orders can be applied against cohabitant couples but they are entitled to very little else.
  • Cohabitant couples should really consider protecting themselves financially through life of another (life cover on each others lives) or Section 72 life cover plans.

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