On Tuesday (2nd October 2018), Prime Minister Theresa May announced during the Conservative party conference in Birmingham that heterosexual couples in England and Wales will have the right to enter civil partnerships.
May said: “This change in the law helps protect the interests of opposite-sex couples who want to commit, want to formalise their relationship, but don’t necessarily want to get married. By extending civil partnerships, we are making sure that all couples, be they same-sex or opposite-sex, are given the same choices in life.”
This update comes after a Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, ruling this summer which found that it was discriminatory to restrict civil partnerships to same-sex couples. Heterosexual couple Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan believed that their human rights had been breached as they could not enter a civil partnership with one another. Justices unanimously found in favour of the couple’s statement.
The government reported that around 3.3 million unmarried couples in England and Wales currently have no legal partnership rights, but they have financial responsibilities and almost half of them are believed to have children.
Peter Alison, Solicitor and Collaborative Lawyer at stevensdrake, said: “Many people wrongly believe in a common law marriage but if a couple are not in a marriage or civil partnership, the law does not come to their aid upon the breakdown of the relationship. It can get very messy and complicated.
“In a civil partnership, the couple can access the same legal treatment such as inheritance, tax, pensions and next-of-kin arrangements as they would get in a marriage. However, no indication of date has been given by the government as to when this law will be updated. The Family Law team at stevensdrake will be keeping a close eye on further updates.”
Civil partnerships have been legal in the UK for same-sex couples since the Civil Partnership Act 2004 was passed, and since March 2014, homosexual couples have been able to marry in England and Wales. A consultation is also underway by the Scottish government to extend civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples.
If you would like any advice about marriage, civil partnerships, divorce, dissolution of civil partnerships, or cohabitation, please contact us on 01293 596900 and speak to our Family Law team.