Civil Partnerships for heterosexual couples
There were 3.3 million cohabiting couples in 2017*. The recent announcement, by the government, to enable heterosexual couples to enter a Civil Partnership and have an alternative option to marriage, will potentially enable those couples to acquire additional rights without having to enter into a marriage ceremony.
This follows the judgement of the Supreme Court in June who upheld Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan’s application to be allowed to have a Civil Partnership. The Court ruled that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
When same-sex Civil Partnerships became possible in 2005, the purpose was to give those couples legal equality to make financial claims and give them the same inheritance rights as married couples. This was at a time when same-sex marriage was not permitted. However, when same-sex marriage was legalised in 2013, no comparable right was given to heterosexual couples to form Civil Partnerships.
Why consider marriage or civil partnership? There is still a myth that a “common law marriage” enables cohabiting couples to acquire rights in relation to property, division of assets, inheritance and maintenance claims. This is entirely incorrect.
The government’s announcement, which is not yet legislation, effectively means that a cohabiting couple, who do not want to go through a formal marriage ceremony, would have the option of entering into a Civil Partnership. Cohabiting parties who do not wish to marry or enter into a Civil Partnership together are still financially vulnerable and this still needs to be the subject of further reform. Currently a cohabitation agreement is one of the few alternative options.
* ONS 2017 survey, in 2017
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.