A number of laws have come into force recently to respond to the changing nature of families today. The Scottish Executive, in 2006, produced a leaflet (pdf) called 'Family Matters: Marriage In Scotland' which gives all the information you need about marriage and the changes to the law.
There are lots of organisations which provide support for couples, such as Scottish Marriage Care. The law sets out two grounds for divorce in Scotland:
an irretrievable breakdown of the relationship (this can be proved in four ways – adultery, living apart for one year where both parties agree to the divorce, living apart for two years where one party does not agree to the divorce and unreasonable behaviour)
an 'Interim Gender Recognition Certificate' has been issued to one spouse (this is one of the early stages of a gender change).
An application for divorce should be made to the Sheriff Court. It can be made by either the husband or wife.
Family Mediation Scotland aims to help families plan for the future after a break up or separation. See the Family Mediation Scotland website for more information.
A civil partnership is a form of legal relationship which was created by the Civil Partnership Act 2004. Civil partnerships can be formed between people who are:
over the age of 16
of the same sex
not already married or in an existing civil partnership
not within the prohibited degrees of relationship
Although civil partnerships are not the same as marriage, they do allow relationships between same sex couples to be legally recognised. The registration procedure for civil partnerships is similar to that of civil marriages.
People who live together as if they are husband and wife or civil partners, are known as cohabitants. The law affecting cohabitating couples has been updated in the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006.
It is a myth that if you live with someone for a long time you have the same rights as married couples or civil partners. The law is very clear about this.
The Scottish Executive produced a leaflet (pdf) in 2006 called 'Family Matters: Living Together in Scotland'. This basically gives all the information you need on the law and how it affects cohabitants, and, importantly it details the rights of cohabitants if the relationship ends.