Historically, LGBT+ couples have not enjoyed the same family law rights and protections as opposite-sex couples. In recognition of LGBT+ History Month this February, our Family Team reflect on recent legislative changes that promote greater equality to the legal rights of LGBT+ couples.
Marriage and Civil Partnership
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 introduced civil partnership for same-sex couples. By registering a civil partnership, a couple has many of the same legal recognition, rights, and responsibilities as in a legal marriage. The right to enter into a civil partnership was extended to opposite-sex couples in December 2019.
In 2013, the right to get married was extended to same-sex couples in England and Wales by the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. LGBT+ couples already in a civil partnership were given the option to convert their civil partnership into marriage in 2014.
Until recently, adultery would not be accepted as grounds in support of a divorce petition or for the dissolution of a civil partnership of a same-sex couple. This was because the legal definition of adultery was one person engaging in sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex.
Last year’s Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2022 introduced no-fault divorce and extended this to same-sex couples. Instead of assigning blame under one of the five ‘grounds’ of divorce, separating couples are required to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown. You can find more information on the new divorce law here.
The law relating to parentage is intricate and can be confusing for any family. A child’s birth mother will automatically be a legal parent, whereas any other person seeking to be named as a legal parent will depend on various other circumstances and conditions.
It was only in 2008 that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act recognised female same-sex couples as the legal parents of children conceived through the use of donated sperm, eggs or embryos. It also allowed unmarried and same sex couples to be able to apply for Parental Orders to be formally recognised as a child’s legal parents following surrogacy.
Following a nationwide consultation by the government, a new draft Bill to further revise surrogacy law is expected in Spring 2023.
Until the enactment of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, which came into force in 2005, it was only possible for married couples to adopt a child. The Act enabled unmarried and same-sex couples the right to adopt in the same way as heterosexual couples.
Despite these recent legislative changes, LGBT+ families face unique challenge. Our Family Team have specialist experience in this area of law. If you require assistance with any of the issues raised above, please contact our Family Team.