PETER JOHNSON IS THE SENIOR PARTNER AT ALEXANDER JLO SOLICITORS AND AN ACCREDITED LAW SOCIETY FAMILY SPECIALIST
What services can you offer gay men and women?
We are able to offer the same services to gay men and women. These include: Pre-nuptial and Post-nuptial Agreements; Co-habitation Agreements; Separation Agreements; Divorce; Dissolution of Civil Partnerships; and Advice in relation to children issues.
In addition to those services we can offer within our Family Department, we are also able to provide additional services, such as: Preparing a Will; Change of Name; Buying and selling property; and Legal advice on any civil issue.
Legally things have changed so much for LGBT people over the past 10 or years. What would you say has been the most significant change?
The most significant change was the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act 2004. This gave same-sex couples the option of entering into a Civil Partnership which provides rights and responsibilities similar to a marriage. Civil partners are entitled to the same property rights, the same exemptions on inheritance tax and Social Security and pension benefits as married couples. They also have the ability to get Parental Responsibility for a partner’s child, as well as reasonable maintenance, tenancy rights, insurance and next of kin rights in hospital and with doctors. There is also a process similar to divorce which provides the same rights to a party divorcing. This is known as Dissolution of Civil Partnership.
Same-sex marriage has now been legalised and the first gay marriages in the UK are likely to take place early next year. What advantages – if any – does marriage have over a Civil Partnership?
Civil Partnership Ceremonies cannot include religious services, music or symbols, and are forbidden to take place in religious venues. Now that same-sex marriage has been legalised, same-sex couples will have the option to enter into either a marriage or a Civil Partnership, and have the choice of ceremonies and venues. The other practical difference is that if you are the civil partner of a male Peer or Knight of the Realm, you do not receive a courtesy title which the spouse of a Peer or Knight of the Realm would be entitled to! Legalisation of same-sex marriage has therefore brought about equality.
Would you advise a same-sex couple embarking on a Civil Partnership or marriage to embark on a Pre-nuptial Agreement? What are the advantages of such an agreement?
We would advise any couple embarking on a Civil Partnership or marriage to seriously consider a Pre-nuptial Agreement. The advantage of such an agreement is that it will regulate how finances are dealt with upon separation. A Pre-nuptial Agreement can be used to protect assets. As the agreement regulates how finances will be dealt with upon a breakdown, it will help to avoid unnecessary dispute and costs being incurred upon separation. Similarly, couples who choose to live together should also consider entering into a Co-habitation Agreement which can provide similar protect.
Marriages and Civil Partnerships do fall apart. What are the major things to take into consideration when dealing with the break-up of relationships, and how can you help?
Marriages, Civil Partnerships and relationships do fall apart. When any relationship breaks up there are major things to be considered. Any children of the relationship will need to be considered and appropriate arrangements made in respect of who the children live with and how much time they should spend with the other party. Finances will also have to be considered and in particular how the assets, income and pension should be distributed in cases of marriages and Civil Partnerships. We can assist by providing advice on rights in respect of an appropriate entitlement/settlement. We can also assist with the procedural aspects of the case in obtaining a Final Order or dealing with the divorce or dissolution proceedings.
Alexander JLO Solicitors, 2nd Floor, Northern & Shell Tower, 4 Selsdon Way, London E14 9GL Tel: 020 7537 7000 london-law.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org