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Civil partnership or marriage?

So far, marriage for all is just a phrase that political parties are arguing about. The supporters of marriage for all may be looking forward to better times, as the proposal to promote it has already passed its first reading in the Chamber of Deputies. According to its opponents, registered partnerships for same-sex couples are quite sufficient. How does this proclamation stand up in legal terms?

Detail na dva muže držící se za ruce
Mgr. Nikola Šedová
13. 8. 2023
6 minutes of reading

Chapters of the article

How is a registered partnership entered into?

According to the Registered Partnership Act, a civil partnership is a permanent union of two persons of the same sex. As the law refers to the term “partner”, we will continue to use it in the text, although we are aware that it applies equally to women, i.e. female partners or non-binary persons.

You can only register with a person of the same biological sex, you must both be at least 18 years old, you must be fully competent and neither of you must already be registered or married. Of course, you also cannot register with close relatives. You can only enter into a civil partnership if at least one of you has Czech citizenship.

What are the differences between a partnership and a marriage?

Unlike a traditional marriage, registration can only take place officially in front of one of the fourteen registry offices in the country. The choice of location is thus narrowed down considerably for same-sex couples. Not every office allows the ceremony to take place outside the town hall. However, this year the government has prepared an amendment to the law on registered partnership, which will allow partners to make the declaration in front of any registry office.

In other areas, too, there is little comparison with marriage. For example, in terms of property. Registered partners do not have community property, which automatically arises in marriage. Each has his or her own separate property, unless they deliberately acquire certain things in joint ownership with designated shares. This is something to keep in mind. So, if registered partners agree that one will stay in the household and look after the children while the other earns money and then uses the money to buy, say, an apartment or a car, the domestic partner will have no rights to the apartment or car in the event of a dispute. If the partners want the other partner to have a share in the property, they must contractually regulate this.

Another property area to remember is inheritance. Unlike marriage, registered partners do not automatically inherit in the first class of succession. If your civil partner had children and did not make a will, you will inherit nothing from them, even if you lived together for many years. The registered partner inherits, like unmarried partners, only in the second inheritance class, which comes into play if the deceased had no children. In this inheritance class, the surviving spouse is together with their partner’s parents and any cohabitant.

Education and adoption of children

It is now quite common for two gay men or two lesbians in a civil partnership to raise children together. However, only one of the partners can ever be the official parent of the children. They can become parents in the traditional way or with the help of artificial insemination. From a legal point of view, there is no difference in the outcome of the two situations. Another option is adoption. In 2016, the Constitutional Court in the Czech Republic made it possible for a registered partner to adopt a child. However, he or she can still only adopt the child as an individual. Unlike marriage, registered partners cannot adopt a child as a couple and therefore both officially become the child’s parents.

Although this is practically a joint parenting, the other partner has no rights or obligations to these children even if the children have grown up with him/her since they were young and consider him/her as their de facto parent. This also complicates ordinary situations such as going to the doctor or staying in hospital and finding out about their health. Sometimes tragic situations arise when the biological parent dies and the partner has to deal not only with the loss of the life partner but also with the children raised by him or her, who are not his or her children under the law.

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What if the partnership doesn’t work out?

Just like any other cohabitation between two people, a civil partnership may not last forever and may break up. Registered partners do not file for divorce, but apply to the court to dissolve the partnership. The procedure is much simpler than for divorce. Even if you have brought up children together or had joint property, the court will not primarily deal with this. All you have to do in court is show that the partnership no longer effectively exists and the judge will dissolve the partnership. However, as we pointed out above, this cannot be seen primarily as an advantage, but rather a disadvantage. You have no rights to your partner’s biological children or jointly purchased property (but technically with their money).

Can I claim maintenance from my ex-partner?

Paradoxically, one of the few points at which the rights of registered partners resemble those of spouses is when they separate and claim maintenance. Maintenance can be claimed by the former partner if he or she is in need of support and is unable to support himself or herself and the other partner’s circumstances and abilities allow him or her to contribute to the maintenance. In the second case, this is called penalty maintenance and can be claimed by the partner who did not participate in the breakdown of the partnership and who has suffered serious damage as a result. Penalty maintenance is payable for a maximum of 3 years.

As can be seen from the above, it is therefore true that contractually most of the rights of same-sex couples can be aligned with those of spouses. However, in general, there can be no question of equal status in law.

If you are interested in other matters concerning civil partnerships or would like to consult on possible contractual arrangements for your relationship, please contact us. We are here to help you in this area.

Are you considering adopting a child from an orphanage? What are the legal consequences of such steps and how to proceed, we have summarized in our article.

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