Since 13 March, same-sex couples have been able to give notice of marriage; this means that the first marriages will possibly take place on 29 March. If you’re considering making history this month, then here are some key legal facts about marriage between same-sex couples that you might want to consider:
- The majority of the provisions of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 come into force on 13 March 2014.
- In general terms, the law of England and Wales will apply in the same way to a marriage which has taken place between same-sex couples as to a marriage between opposite-sex couples.
- Married persons of the same sex will not be able to divorce on grounds of adultery or to have their marriage annulled on grounds of non-consummation.
- An existing civil partnership does not automatically become a marriage when the new act comes into force but civil partners may choose to convert it.
- When a civil partnership is converted into a marriage, the civil partnership will end and the marriage will be treated as though it had existed from the date of the civil partnership. However, the regulations which will provide the procedure for converting a civil partnership into a marriage have not yet been made.
- Currently, the Civil Partnership Act provides that no religious service can be used at the signing of a civil partnership document. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, however, permits the marriage of a same-sex couple in any appropriately registered building.
- There is provision in the new act for same-sex marriages contracted under foreign law to be recognised as marriages in England and Wales. This applies to existing marriages as well as those entered into in the future.
- No provision is made for civil partnerships entered into according to foreign laws to be converted into a same-sex marriage.
- The intestacy rules will also apply to same-sex married couples so that a spouse of a same-sex marriage will benefit from their husband or wife’s estate.
Information provided by Joanne Clark at law firm Lester Aldridge.