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08/10/2014 By: Nigel Shepherd
Although same sex couples became able to marry at the end of March 2014 in England and Wales, there was a glaring anomaly, because those couples who had already entered into a civil partnership, were not able to convert that civil partnership into a marriage. The regulations providing the legal framework for conversion had not been sorted out.
The Government has now confirmed not only that couples in England and Wales will be able to convert their civil partnerships to marriages at registry offices from 10 December this year but also that couples will get a full marriage certificate, not just a ‘certificate of conversion’ as previously mooted and which many of those looking to convert, felt would have represented a second class acknowledgement of their relationship. Additionally, the marriage certificate will be backdated so that the marriage will be treated as having started at the date the original civil partnership was formed, although the date of the conversion from civil partnership to marriage will be shown on the certificate.
But what about if the new same sex marriage breaks down? Will the backdating of the certificate make any difference in practice? The short answer is it won’t. This is because when it comes to dealing with financial consequences of the breakdown of a same sex marriage, the law is the same as it is for opposite sex married couples. A range of factors will be taken into account. One of these is the length of the marriage. If the marriage breaks down after a very short time, the financial provision that might be made can be significantly different to where the relationship has lasted many years. However, the backdating of the marriage certificate doesn’t actually make any difference, as the length of the civil partnership would have been treated in the same way.
Family Law Partner
for Mills & Reeve LLP