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Should Siblings Living Together Be Legally Protected?

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In this latest blog article, Family Law Group looks at the idea of extending civil partnerships to include sibling couples.

There has been much comment and debate in the press over a recent court victory by a man and woman who won the right to have a civil partnership instead of marriage, but we at Family Law Group believe that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 should be extended to include sibling couples.

The issue has been raised further when a London couple opposed to marriage won their case at the Supreme Court to have a civil partnership for mixed sex couples. The subject of Civil Partnerships received much publicity when Charles Keidan and his partner Rebecca Steinfeld won their high profile case, so it makes sense to further debate the issue.

Civil partnerships in their own right have been legally recognised for a long time, but extending them to sibling couples has been rather overshadowed by the debate over opposite-sex couples. But over a year ago Conservative peer Lord Lexden introduced the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Amendment) (Sibling Couples) Bill, which is currently going through the House of Lords. The Bill states that an extra category of person is added to those who can enter into a civil partnership. The category is defined as ‘Sibling’ to mean ‘a brother, sister, half-brother or half-sister.’

Lord Lexden’s Bill states that two persons who are considered to be siblings, both of whom are aged over thirty years, are eligible to register as civil partners if they have lived together for a continuous period of twelve years immediately prior to the date of registration and should be allowed to be legally bound if they so wish.

Family Law Group urges for this Bill to go through as there are many adult siblings who live together and depend on each other greatly, but are overlooked by the law.

As has been witnessed recently, civil partnerships give clarity to the value of close mutually supportive relationships outside marriage, and omitting cohabiting blood relations from the right to form one can be seen as discrimination.

This would give siblings who live together long-term rights when the relationship ends, particularly upon the death of one of them.

The currently situation for siblings is that they are in a similar, but not identical, position to cohabitees. Unlike spouses and civil partners they cannot inherit capital from a deceased sibling without it being subject to inheritance tax. Also, whilst they could automatically inherit if the sibling dies without a will, their position is far more fragile than that of a spouse or civil partner.

At the centre of this is the idea of giving property rights to cohabitees and stopping a close sibling being left with nothing, or very little.

It is all about what is deemed fair, and if siblings chose to live together and rely upon one another on a long-term basis, then this has to be given consideration.

Our legal team believe that families are a much looser and complex structure than they were a generation ago, and help like this for siblings is a sensible step.

Parliament has much debated this and the opposing argument has been that civil partnerships are a matter of choice, whereas blood or birth relationships are not. Family Law Group wait in anticipation for the outcome of the proposed Bill and hope that in the long run, siblings are afforded legal fairness when they rely upon one another as any other legally recognised ‘couple’ does.

More information on the Bill going through Parliament can be found by clicking here.