A week in family law: civil partnership scrap, surrogacy battle and Court confirms jail time for breaching a family Court order

It has been a busy week in family law with cases and proposed reforms of family law hitting the headlines:

Civil partnerships could be scrapped in new family law proposals

As a heterosexual couple head to the Supreme Court to argue that they should be legally able to enter into a civil partnership it’s been revealed that there’ll be a consultation process on the future of civil partnerships which has an impact on family law.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5724383/Civil-partnerships-scrapped-extended-heterosexuals.html

My first thought, when reading the article, was how things have changed in a relatively short period of time. Normally changes in the law seem to take more than a lifetime to get through parliament.

Civil partnerships for gay couples were introduced in 2005 and, at a very fast pace for family law reform, same sex marriages were legalised in 2014. Since 2014 heterosexual couples who don’t want to get married have rightly said that they are discriminated against because, unlike gay couples, they don’t have the choice of entering into a civil partnership to legally recognise their relationship and with the consequent financial benefits , such as inheritance tax breaks.

The government is reviewing civil partnerships as there has been a fall in demand from gay couples, now they have the option of getting married. There will however always be some couples, whether gay or heterosexual, who prefer to recognise their relationship without the label of ‘’ marriage’’. As the conservative party is keen to uphold the sanctity of marriage and to stop the marriage rate falling you can foresee that ,in time, civil partnerships may be scrapped for all rather than extended and made available for all couples.

Surrogacy battle

The papers are reporting on a case of a birth mother who entered into a surrogacy agreement with 2 men. One of the men died during the pregnancy leaving the child’s biological father believing that he would bring the child up on his own. The surrogate mother has other ideas and now believes that the baby should be brought up by her as the father can’t offer a 2 parent home and she has formed a bond with the baby.

Under current surrogacy laws the surrogate mother has legal rights in relation to the child until a parental order is made. Changes to surrogacy law have been proposed to bring the law up-to-date and fit for today’s purposes. It is rare for a surrogate mother to refuse to hand over a baby and ultimately it will be for the family Court to decide what is in this baby’s best interests.

Jail time

The Court of Appeal has decided that a Court was right to imprison an 83 year old man, Mr Hart, for not cooperating with his ex-wife and sorting out money. Mr Hart had been placed on bail pending his appeal but he will now face his 14 month jail term. Harsh for an octogenarian? Maybe but the Court of Appeal was keen to show that the Court does have teeth and has the power to enforce its Court orders.

For advice on any aspect of family law please call +44 (0) 1477 464020 or email me at louise@evolvefamilylaw.co.uk