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Civil Partnerships for Heterosexual Couples.

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who won a legal battle to enable heterosexual couples to enter into a Civil Partnerships celebrated entering into their Civil Partnership on New Year’s Eve 2019.

Previously, only same-sex couples were able to enter into a Civil Partnership.

Civil Partnerships essentially confer the same rights to couples as marriage does.

However, there are a few differences between Civil Partnerships and Marriage:

  • Civil Partnerships cannot be formed in a religious ceremony or in religious premises,
  • Marriage is formed by vows; Civil Partnerships are formed by signing of the Civil Partnership document,
  • Only the father’s name features on the marriage certificate where as both parent’s names appear on the civil partnership document,
  • Marriages are ended by divorce and Civil Partnerships by dissolution although the procedure is largely the same,
  • A Civil Partnership is not voidable on the basis of non-consummation (nor does it make a same sex marriage voidable)
  • Adultery is only a ground for dissolution (or divorce) if it is committed with a person of the opposite sex.

How the Law has developed

Civil Partnerships were introduced in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 as a way for same sex couples to have their relationships legally recognised. Previously same sex couples could not benefit from any of the rights that were awarded to opposite sex couples when they married.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 allowed same sex couples to marry although they were still able to enter into a Civil Partnership if they preferred. This created an unusual situation where same sex couples had the choice of marriage or civil partnership, but heterosexual couples who wanted to formalise their relationship were only able to marry.

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan believed that the bar on opposite sex civil partnerships was discriminatory. Their case went all the way to the Supreme Court and in June 2018, the judges unanimously agreed that the bar was in fact discriminatory. The Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Act 2019 changed the law and allowed opposite sex couples to have Civil Partnerships.

If you are planning to enter into a Civil Partnership, please note that whilst most other countries in the world recognise a UK marriage, the same cannot be said of civil partnerships. Therefore, if you intend to live and work overseas it is sensible to check that the country you plan to live in will recognise your civil partnership.

Many people entering into a marriage or Civil Partnership wish to protect assets they may have brought into the relationship or they would like some certainty about how assets acquired during a marriage or civil partnership will be divided in the event that the marriage or civil partnership breaks down. More and more people are entering into a Pre-Nuptial or Pre-Registration Agreement. Post Nuptial or Post Registration Agreements are possible after the marriage or civil partnership has taken place.

For advice and further information regarding Pre-Nuptial / Registration Agreements or Post Nuptial/ Registration Agreements please use the following contact details:-

Rosemary Finn (Senior Associate Solicitor)

Westgate House, 1 Chesterfield Road South, Mansfield, NG18 5NR

Phone : 01623 655666

Email: rosemary.finn@elliotmather.co.uk

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