LGBT Relationships & the Law

Over the last few years there have been many changes in the law in regards to the LGBT community and their relationship rights. Entering a legally recognised relationship or starting a family, holds special consideration for LGBT people and we want to support and protect your rights in a number of areas.

Whether you need advice on living together, separation, divorce, civil partnerships, cohabitation, children or financial issues or mediation services, our advice is bespoke to your circumstances.  We regard every person and issue to be unique, so you will receive a refreshing and personal way of helping you.

We pride ourselves on getting to know you and your problem, listening to every detail of your issue, and applying our expertise and experience to act quickly in resolving your disagreement.

Your best interests and future are always at the heart of the matter, and we will go that extra step to protect you and your family’s interests.

We are accredited by The Law Society and members of Resolution, which means that you can come to us knowing we have the attitude and professionalism to make your situation better.

Get in touch with our team today for a confidential and personal consultation.

Living Together

Many couples choose to live together without entering into a civil partnership and most people believe that after a couple of years they have the same rights as married couples. This is not true; couples who live together hardly have any rights automatically.

Our team appreciate that civil partnerships aren't the only type of long term relationship and so getting to know you and understanding your cohabitation rights is extremely important. We can then help you put agreements in pace to protect you. We don't want you to be faced with any unforeseen problems should the relationship break down or one of you passes away. If you are living together as a couple, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your partner. There are also ways to minimise the legal and financial problems which may arise if you decide to separate or if one of you dies.

Our specialist team can work with you to prevent a variety of issues and disputes from occurring by spending the time in creating a Cohabitation Agreement based on your individual circumstances.

This is a simple document that states clearly each of your rights in terms of property, other financial assets and pensions. It can be extended to include provision for any children if needed. You will also need to prepare or amend your wills to reflect your joint agreement.

This is a complicated area of law that is subject to changes by interpretation by the Court, so we recommend that you take specialist advice - we would happily guide you in the right direction.

Civil Partnership – Pre/Post Registration Agreements

The Civil Partnership Act came into affect in December 2005 and Brighton was one of first places in the UK to host a registration ceremony.

Understanding civil partnership law

Once you have registered your Civil Partnership, you become a family. There are strict guidelines as to who can and cannot enter into a partnership, and these are broadly in line with the rules governing marriage, with the obvious gender exception.

The differences between civil partnership and marriage are few. Like a marriage, a Civil Partnership can only be ended by a court order, in the same way as a divorce. This is known as dissolution. The Civil Partnership Act also recognises foreign same sex marriages, but only as Civil Partnerships.

Pre/Post Registration Agreements

A Pre Registration Agreement is a contract signed before entering into a Civil Partnership, setting out what should happen in the event the Civil Partnership doesn't work out. A Post Registration Agreement is the same type of contract, but signed after entering into the Civil Partnership.

These types of agreements are increasingly being given more weight and consideration by the courts. The essential principle is that the Court should now give effect to such agreements if they are freely entered into with a full appreciation of its implications, unless in the circumstances prevailing it would not be fair to uphold the agreement. This effectively means that pre and post registration agreements are likely to be upheld by the Court as long as they are deemed to be fair and do not prejudice the reasonable requirements of any children of the civil partnership.

Due to the uncertainty and judicial discretion that exists when dividing up civil partnership assets it seems sensible that people consider entering into a pre or post registration agreement to create some certainty and give them the opportunity to decide for themselves what a fair outcome would be if the civil partnership should breakdown in the future.

Pre and post registration agreements can be a difficult subject to approach due to worries about not wanting to seem unromantic and pessimistic. However, by entering into such an agreement a couple will have to discuss, disclose and consider their financial circumstances and the financial issues that they may face when in a civil partnership, so it should really be regarded as a practical approach to entering into a civil partnership and sensible financial planning for the future.

Although the legal implications of a civil partnership are probably not the first thing people think about when entering into a civil partnership it is important to understand that a civil partnership does have a huge legal and financial impact on your life.

Our specialist team of solicitors can help explain and advise on the issues that you need to consider to ensure that your interests, and indeed your family's interests, are protected.

Contact our Family Law Team today to arrange an appointment for further expert advice on pre and post registration agreements.

Civil Partnership Dissolution

Sadly civil partnerships can breakdown and in certain circumstances the civil partnership can be legally brought to an end by dissolution proceedings. The Family Team at Mayo Wynne Baxter knows that separation advice has to be clear, sympathetic and specific to your circumstances.

Our experienced and approachable solicitors have unprecedented knowledge on civil partnership dissolution and separation rights. Your individual circumstances are important to us and the first thing we will do is listen.

If your civil partnership has broken down and is irretrievable, then you can file for dissolution. One of the four following facts will determine an entitlement to a dissolution: 

  1. Your partner's behaviour is such that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them
  2. Desertion (This is extremely rare, and hard to prove)
  3. Two years separation with the consent of your civil partner
  4. Five years separation without the consent of your civil partner

You cannot apply for a dissolution until the civil partnership has been in existence for a year and you or your partner must have been resident in England or Wales for six months, or if you or one of you reside in a European Union Country.

Resolving financial issues following the breakdown of a civil partnership can be an extremely stressful and a difficult process for many. Our Team has particular expertise in dealing with complex financial disputes involving the home, businesses, trust assets, maintenance, inheritances and pensions.

Various matters need to be taken into account when deciding how financial issues can be resolved. The first consideration needs to be the welfare of any children of the family. The following also need to be considered:

  1.  The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each civil partner has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future including, in the case of earning capacity, any increase in that capacity which would be in the opinion of the Court reasonable to expect a person to take steps to acquire.
  2. The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each civil partner has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future.
  3. The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the
    civil partnership.
  4. The ages of each civil partner and the duration of the civil partnership.
  5. Any physical and mental disability of each civil partner.
  6. Contributions which each civil partner has made or is likely to make in the foreseeable future to the welfare of the family, including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family.
  7. The conduct of each civil partner, if that conduct is such that it would be in the opinion of the Court to be inequitable to disregard.
  8. The value to each civil partner of any benefit which one civil partner because of a dissolution will lose his chance of acquiring (most usually pension provision).

The aim of the Court is to achieve fairness. Often a key factor is the reasonable needs of yourself and your civil partner.

There are different methods available to help you resolve financial matters. These include: 

  1. Mediation: You and your civil partner meet with an independent Mediator who will help facilitate discussions. If you reach an agreement then the Mediator can draw up "Heads of Agreement" and you can then instruct a Solicitor to prepare a Consent Order so that the agreement can be converted into a legally binding Order.
  2. Solicitor-led negotiation: Following the financial disclosure process you and your civil partner would use your solicitors to negotiate a settlement which can then be converted into a legally binding Order. The negotiation is largely based on letter and telephone communication but can be conducted by way of round-table discussion.
  3. Court proceedings: If you and your civil partner are not able to reach an agreement between you Court proceedings can be issued. Generally speaking the process will involve the following stages:
  •  Exchange of financial disclosure.
  • A First Appointment at court where a Judge will consider the case and determine what further information is needed.
  • Gathering of any further information and complying with the timetable that has been set down by the court.
  • A Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment where a Judge will consider the case and give an indication of what would be an appropriate settlement.
  • If you and your civil partner are unable to reach an agreement following the above steps the matter will then be set down for a Final Hearing where a Judge will hear evidence and then decide how the financial issues should be resolved and make a Final Order accordingly.

It is worth noting that if an agreement can be reached during any of the stages above that agreement can be converted into a Consent Order and submitted to the Court for approval to conclude matters.

This is a brief explanation of how dissolution and financial issues are dealt with and is not intended to be a substitute for tailored assistance to your circumstances. Contact our Family Law Team today to arrange an appointment for further expert advice.

Children Issues

The law surrounding parenthood and parental responsibility of children of people in LGBT relationships can be complicated. The law in this area is still emerging. The circumstances surrounding conception need to be considered.

It is important to establish whether or not you are a legal parent and/or have parental responsibility. It will impact upon your ability to have a say in the upbringing of the child, financial obligations, inheritance and your right to be able to automatically apply to Court to determine issuing involving the child.

If you have a child and are uncertain of your legal status you should contact a member of the Family Law Team accordingly for tailored advice to your circumstances.

You may find it useful to contact Rainbow Families, an informal social and support group for LGBT parents and their children.

You can contact our Family Law Team today for further advice or arrange an appointment to meet one of the team.

Mayo Wynne Baxter have been proud sponsors of Pride Brighton & Hove.