Please will you not marry me?

Michelle Bowyer, Solicitor in our Family Team, summarises the planned option for heterosexual couples to be able to enter into a civil partnership.

The Government has announced plans to give heterosexual couples the option to enter in to a civil partnership. This proposal follows the Supreme Court ruling in June 2018 which found that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Currently, same sex couples have the option to enter in to a civil partnership or to marry whereas a heterosexual couple cannot enter in to a civil partnership. Rebecca Steinfield and Charles Keidan challenged the lack of prospect for them to become civil partners and successfully persuaded the Supreme Court that heterosexual couples should share this opportunity.

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 provided for same sex couples to form a legal union whereby they shared the same financial rights and benefits of a married couple without entering into marriage. This was followed by the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 which legalised marriage for same sex couples.

Some heterosexual couples wish to acquire the legal rights and benefits afforded by marriage without actually marrying (such as spousal pension benefits upon the death of their partner and the opportunity to pursue a financial remedy order at the end of their relationship)

What is the difference?
• A civil partnership is formed by signing a document; marriage requires a formal ceremony and an exchange of vows;
• You cannot dissolve a civil partnership by relying upon adultery as the cause of the breakdown as the law currently only recognises adultery as intercourse between a man and a woman;
• A civil partnership is free from religious connotations;
• A civil partnership certificate names both parents of the parties; a marriage certificate names only the Fathers of the parties (a fact which some object to).

This issue also highlights the common misconception that cohabiting couples benefit from legal protection. They do not. There is no such thing as “common law” spouse and the only way to secure legal and financial protection is by way of marriage or by entering in to a civil partnership.

It also highlights the fact that Family Solicitors not only assist parties at the end of their relationship but also at the beginning. We can produce Cohabitation agreements and prenuptial/post nuptial agreements which can serve to protect both parties in the event of their union breaking down at a later stage.

For advice on all family related matters, please contact our specialised team at Bevirs Law.