Civil partnerships and mixed-sex couples – the ‘siblings’ debate

Civil partnerships have made the headlines recently with an announcement from Theresa May that they may be opened up to mixed-sex couples, including siblings, which has led to a whole host of confusion and moral debate.

Currently, only same-sex couples can enter into civil partnerships, which were introduced in 2004 with the then government objecting to same-sex couples having the ability to enter into a civil partnership. The latest development is that a Private Members Bill has been presented to the House of Lords which would allow siblings to enter into civil partnerships, giving them all the rights and obligations that civil partnerships offer. To be able to enter into civil partnerships, it is proposed that:-

  1. They would both have to be 30 years old or more;
  2. They must have lived together for a continuous period of 12 years before entering into a civil partnership.

Whilst the reasoning behind these stipulations is unclear, the benefits are very clear in that:-

  1. Civil partners would be able to inherit property on the death of the other;
  2. They would both have all the tax advantages that married couples and civil partners enjoy;
  3. Should the civil partnership be dissolved, the property that each of them own at the time, either in their individual names, or jointly, could be divided, along with pensions.

The whole concept represents much further reaching developments than merely extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples and begs the questions, can it be justified and is it necessary?

There is clearly going to be much public discussion over an extended period of time, not least of which the moral debate, which is looming, and one important question will be, what protection will be given, if any, to opposite-sex couples who live together as husband and wife when those relationships break down? Currently they have very little protection at all.

Carol Robinson is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.

Ipswich Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email