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What effect does same sex marriage have on family law?

The first same sex marriages in England and Wales took place in March this year.  Celebrity unions include the radio presenter, Sandi Toksvig, and her civil partner, Debbie, who recently renewed their vows. Same sex marriage has been welcomed by the government and the media, but what’s it impact on English and Welsh law?
The marriage laws have always related to a partnership between a man and a woman and as a result, new legislation has been brought in to ensure that same sex marriage is on an equal footing with heterosexual marriage.This legislation is known as the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, and while it does offer marriage equality, there are some exceptions.
The Act states that a same-sex couple will not be able to divorce on the grounds of adultery. This is because the definition of adultery in the law is penetrative sex between a man and woman outside of marriage, which cannot be applied to same-sex marriages. Another exception is that a same-sex couple will not be able to divorce on the grounds of non-consummation of their marriage. Again, the legal definition cannot allow this to apply.In addition, the new law allows same-sex partners to be married in a religious ceremony, such as a Quaker or Jewish service, but the Church of England has been excluded from this section of the law.
It is important to remember that these laws only apply in England and Wales and are not permissible in Scotland or Northern Ireland currently.
If you are not sure about how the new legislation works, or you need advice about any other family law issues surrounding your marriage, you should contact a specialist family lawyer who will be able to advise you accordingly.
You can speak to one of our Family Team in complete confidence – call 01302 320621.

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