Same sex couple take legal action over refusal to convert civil partnership to same sex marriage

Published: 30th January 2014

The couple from Barnsley have been in a civil partnership for the past 5 years and were led to believe that they could convert their civil partnership into a same sex marriage when the new law becomes active from 29th March 2014.

They were informed of the news, which the couple described as a 'legal bombshell', when they tried to arrange a registrar for their big day... only to be told that in order to get married, they first have to dissolve their current civil partnership - which is effectively being told to file for a divorce before they can get married.

The distraught couple had been planning their wedding for some time and have even ordered their suits and wedding cake prior to receiving the news. It was originally thought that same sex couples could convert their civil partnerships into same sex marriages from March 2014 but a spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) stated that the government are yet to finalise the process for converting civil partnerships to same sex marriages and this is not likely to be resolved this year.

The spokeswoman from the DCMS said "We are continuing to work hard to ensure that couples wanting to convert their civil partnerships into marriages are able to do so as soon as possible. We aim to do this before the end of 2014.

"It will take a little longer because we need to introduce completely new procedures and processes. This contrasts with the work to make new marriages for same-sex couples possible, where we have been able to build on existing processes so implementation is more straightforward."

This now presents a big problem for couples that are currently in civil partnerships as there are specific circumstances in which couples can apply for the dissolution of a civil partnership. The circumstances include unreasonable behaviour, two years desertion and separation for either two years (with the respondent's consent) or 5 years (without consent).

A statement from the couple said, "We're being penalised because we're already in a civil partnership. No couple should be asked to divorce or dissolve to be able to get married. To dissolve a civil partnership, you have to go to court, and you have to have a valid reason. Wanting to get married is hardly a valid reason to dissolve a civil partnership, so we would effectively have had to commit perjury."

"For us this is about equality, but it's not just the principle of the situation – there are legal and practical difficulties if we were forced to divorce. If our civil partnership were dissolved there would be a period of time when we would not be each other's next of kin, for example."

The Barnsley couple are now trying to raise awareness of their circumstances in order to help same sex couples that are in the same situation. K J Smith Solicitors have many years of experience in dealing with a wide range of legal matters relating to civil partnerships. For more information, contact our team of family solicitors on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor), or 020 7070 0330 (Central London).

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