Defining Civil Partnership and How It Affects Wills

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Since 19 May 2008 couples in the ACT have had the option of registering their relationship with the Office of Regulatory Services as a civil partnership. Here Dobinson Davey Clifford Simpson set out the fundamentals about civil partnerships.

What is a civil partnership?

A civil partnership is a legally recognised relationship that is created when the Registrar General (of Births Deaths and Marriages) registers a formal declaration made by two people.

Who may enter into a civil partnership?

Two adults who are in a relationship as a couple, regardless of their sex, may enter into a civil partnership. However, neither person must be married or in a existing civil partnership. At least one of the persons must live in the Australian Capital Territory.

A decision to enter into a civil partnership is a serious commitment that has a number consequences under ACT Law for example, current legislation provides that if you register a civil partnership, any Will you have made is revoked unless it is made in contemplation of your marriage or civil partnership.

Further, for the first two years after your relationship is registered, if one of you dies without an existing Will your partner may not have the same entitlement to benefit that a married person would have if his or her spouse died without making a Will.

What happens if my partner or I wish to terminate the civil partnership?

A civil partnership is terminated upon the death of either party or marriage of either party. It may also be terminated by both parties or either party or by Court order.

How do I terminate a civil partnership?

Apart from by Court Order a Termination Notice may given by one party to the other, then followed up by Statutory Declaration given to the Registrar General with a copy of the Termination Notice.

Does the civil partnership have implications for other rights that my partner and I may have?

Possibly. Because the civil partnerships legislation gives committed couples an opportunity to publicly register their relationship it may mean that the status of unregistered “partnerships” is called into question. This potentially has implications for the status of claims made for property settlements under the Domestic Relationships Act.