Since December 2005 it has been possible for same sex couples to register their partnership. Although this is called civil partnership it is akin to civil marriage and, in almost all respects, is legally equivalent. For example:
Civil partners enjoy the same tax treatment as married couples.
Civil partners can acquire parental responsibility for each others children in the same way as married couples.
Civil partners may adopt a child or apply for a parental order (in respect of a surrogate child) in the same way as a married couple.
The divorce process (known as dissolution) is the same as for divorce although the grounds for dissolution are slightly different.
Financial settlements on dissolution of a civil partnership are the same as on divorce.
Civil partnership agreements are treated in the same way as marriage agreements (pre-nups).
Other countries have a variety of different schemes. Some such as Belgium, Portugal and Spain have same sex marriage while others such as France, Germany and Hungary have civil partnership or civil union schemes. The rights and responsibilities that arise out of civil partnership or civil union schemes can differ significantly from equivalence to marriage (such as UK civil partnerships) to ones that largely confer tax benefits (such as the French PACS scheme which is also available to opposite sex couples). The recognition provisions are patchy and can give rise to very different rights and responsibilities than those which apply in the home country.
We have extensive experience in dealing with all aspects of civil partnership from negotiating civil partnership agreements to negotiating the dissolution and separation process. If you are considering registering a civil partnership or have already registered your partnership and want to understand how the law might impact on you, please feel free to call one of our lawyers for an informal chat.