Families come in all shapes and sizes but does our law around families reflect this?
In this guest blog, hear from Rachel Lemon who is a Partner in the Family Team at Mundays LLP and heads up the firm’s modern families sector. Rachel explains the present law around modern families and identifies where more changes are needed…
On an equal footing?
Changes in society mean that the law must change in order to keep up. A prime example of this is The Marriage (Same Sex) Act 2013 and before that the Civil Partnership Act 2004. Both pieces of legislation have allowed those in same sex relationships to formalise their relationships.
In the main, a same sex divorce or Civil Partnership dissolution is the same as a heterosexual divorce.
However, due to the definition of “adultery” (sexual intercourse between a man and a woman, one or both of whom are married to another person), proceeding with a divorce or dissolution on that ground is not an option. If one person has had an extra marital relationship, it is not uncommon for the other person to wish to rely on that when bringing the relationship to an end. It makes no difference from a legal perspective but from a personal perspective it can be all important. This inequality cannot be right and it is likely that the legislation will require reform if it is to truly mirror the divorce process available for heterosexual couples.
Recent case law supports a change to the way heterosexual couples also formalise their relationships and they are set to be able to enter into Civil Partnerships. This is a potentially complex area as it is likely to open doors, possibly, to two people, not in a romantic relationship i.e. sisters, wanting to enter into a Civil Partnership and as a result enjoy certain benefits i.e. inheritance tax breaks. This is yet to be decided upon but again reflects the changes in our society and the challenges faced by the law makers.
Building a family – the modern way
The modern family has further developed with the increased use of fertility treatments. That applies to same sex and heterosexual couples and single people, all with a shared desire to have a child. The use of donors has potentially far reaching legal implications and it is vital that early legal advice is sought to ensure the following is explored:-
- Who are the child’s legal parents going to be?
- Who has responsibility for the child (both day to day and financial)?
- Whose details are to be recorded on the birth certificate?
- Where will the child be conceived and what are the legal implications of that?
- Have the relevant consent forms been signed?
- Are there any international considerations?
The law has come a long way in England to recognise our changing family unit. However, there is more to be done. One thing is clear, the modern family is to be celebrated, whatever its form.
If any of the issues in this blog are relevant to you and your family and you would like further help, get in touch with Rachel here – rachel.lemon@mundays,co.uk or on 01932 590 500.
I guide and support individuals before, during and after divorce. To find out how I might be able to help you, get in touch with me here – Contact Rhiannon.
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