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Review of Civil Partnerships in Scotland

Since the introduction of same-sex marriages, there’s been some debate about what the future holds for civil partnerships in Scotland. Should it be scrapped in the future or should it be opened up to include opposite-sex couples? The Scottish Government asked these questions and more in its Review of Civil Partnerships, and has now published its analysis of responses (available here).

The outcome of the Review, and the Scottish Government’s decision on how matters will be taken forward, is expected in due course. Our specialist family law solicitors are following developments closely. In the meantime, this blog provides a brief overview of the three options under consideration.

The Future of Civil Partnerships in Scotland

When same-sex marriage was introduced in 2014, the legal status provided by civil partnerships, which essentially provide same-sex couples with almost the same legal rights and responsibilities as marriage, was re-examined. In particular, concerns began to be expressed that there was an imbalance between same-sex couples, who could enter into civil partnerships, and opposite-sex couples, who could not.

South of the border, concerns such as these led a heterosexual couple to bring a judicial review challenging the law on civil partnerships in England & Wales on the basis that it was discriminatory. Although they were unsuccessful, their case brought attention to the potential inequality of not allowing opposite-sex couples who do not want to marry the option of entering into a civil partnership.

The Scottish Government has been proactive in this regard by launching its Review of Civil Partnerships and seeking views from the public on three possible options:

  1. No change – only same-sex couples can enter into civil partnerships

As the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 is relatively new, there’s a convincing argument for waiting to see what the implications of same-sex marriage are and whether attitudes towards, and demand for, civil partnerships changes in the future. This option maintains the status quo without discounting the possibility of change.

  1. No new civil partnerships in the future – civil partnerships entered into before scrapping civil partnerships would continue to be recognised

Although some have argued that the introduction of same-sex marriage has rendered civil partnerships redundant and that scrapping them would reduce complexity, there has been broad support for retaining civil partnerships. Amongst other things, it is seen as offering an alternative for people who want to formalise their relationship but do not want to enter into marriage. It was also noted in the responses that ending civil partnership may undermine the status and legitimacy of those already in a civil partnership.

  1. Introduce civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples

While this may seem the preferred option in terms of equality, it presents complex issues. Amongst other things, Scots law already recognises some rights for cohabitants and it’s also possible to have a civil marriage ceremony, so the introduction of yet another form of legal status for couples could overly complicate matters and have unexpected consequences.

Our specialist team of family lawyers in Scotland stay ahead of any potential changes to Scotland’s civil partnership and marriage law, ensuring our clients are fully aware of their options. If you have any questions or need assistance with any family law matter, please contact us.

Contact Our Family Lawyers in Helensburgh & Dumbarton

If you require legal advice on any family law matter and looking for understanding, sympathetic and effective family law solicitors, McArthur Stanton can help. For professional legal advice, please contact our expert family lawyers.

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