Why ‘our marriage is over’ might not mean divorce

 

It’s quite possible to be in a happy marriage, without being happy that you are married at all.

Historically, marriage was the only form of legal union available to heterosexual couples, with religious and secular ceremonies both available.

This led to some couples marrying although they did not necessarily agree with the origins of the custom.

Marriage is troublesome for some people on many different grounds. Some atheists dislike the religious connotations, while some women don’t want to take their husband’s name or be seen as his ‘property’.

Yet there are practical reasons to marry, such as tax benefits, automatic inheritance of your partner’s estate and automatic parental rights.

So if you object to the institution of marriage but you’re already married, is divorce the only option?

Civil partnership conversion

Civil partnerships were created as an alternative to marriage for same-sex couples, at a time when same-sex marriage was not an option.

Just a few years later, same-sex marriage was legalised – with the understanding that no church will be forced to host a same-sex ceremony if it goes against the relevant religion’s beliefs.

The unintended consequence of this was that same-sex couples had two options to choose between, whereas mixed-sex couples only had marriage.

While many same-sex couples rushed to convert their civil partnerships to full married status, some heterosexual couples asked why they couldn’t do the opposite.

Kelly Gunnell and Mark Sinclair are one such couple, although they only married around six months ago.

Already they want to end their marriage, but not to separate – instead, they want to become civil partners, as reported by The Times.

Is it possible to convert marriage to civil partnership?

Unfortunately not yet, but it’s likely to become an option soon. The Government Equalities Office is working to make mixed-sex civil partnerships an option before the end of 2019.

A consultation launched by the GEO this summer welcomed views on allowing married couples to convert their marriage to a civil partnership.

Penny Mordaunt, minister for women and equalities when the consultation was announced in July, said: “We must now consider those who didn’t have [civil partnership] as an option previously. That’s why we’re consulting on whether opposite-sex married couples can convert their marriages to civil partnerships.”

The consultation ran for six weeks and closed on August 20th and is a legal requirement before the Secretary of State makes any changes to the regulations surrounding the right to convert a marriage to a civil partnership.

What happens next?

Civil partnerships for mixed-sex couples should be introduced by December 2019 at the latest.

It is highly likely that it will be possible to convert from marriage to civil partnership – the alternative would be an increase in couples choosing to divorce purely so they could form a civil partnership instead.

This would also uphold equality as a parallel to the rights that were given to same-sex couples when it was made possible for them to convert from civil partnership to marriage.

Following a relatively large number of changes in a fairly short space of time, the remaining gaps in the system are being filled in – giving couples of all kinds more ways to express their love for one another in a legally recognised way.

If you are experiencing trouble in a marriage or civil partnership, talk to us today about divorce mediation.

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