Theresa May announced this week that heterosexual couples will soon be able to enter into a civil partnership, a union previously restricted to same sex couples. This follows the Supreme Court unanimously ruling on 27th of June this year that restricting civil partnerships to same sex couples was discriminatory and incompatible with European Law. The Prime Minister has not, however, indicated when this change will take place.

Theresa May stated that “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.”

It has now been four years since Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan first launched their campaign and legal challenge for civil partnerships to be granted to heterosexual couples. More than 130,000 people signed an online petition in support of the change.

The latest government statistics show that there are more than 3.3 million unmarried couples in the U.K that live together with shared financial responsibilities – more than half of these couples also have children.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, Law Society President Christina Blacklaws commented “the law needs to catch up with and reflect on the multiple ways in which people choose to live their lives today. We are absolutely in favour of a review of all areas of the law affecting civil and religious contracts, marriages and partnerships.”

From a legal perspective, marriage and civil partnerships share the same legal rights with respect to:

  • Acquiring parental responsibility
  • Child maintenance
  • Inheritance tax
  • Tenancy rights
  • Next of kin rights

However, upon the breakdown of the relationship, civil partnerships cannot be dissolved on the grounds of adultery, whereas marriages can.

Irrespective of whether you are entering into a civil partnership or marriage, it is advisable to protect your financial position with a prenuptial agreement. This agreement will set out the couple’s assets and income and what would happen to them in the result of a relationship breakdown. Whilst this may not seem to be very romantic, an agreement can help to keep the relationship amicable and help to avoid drawn out costly disputes. These agreements can be easily drafted by our Family Team to provide you with peace of mind.

For further information or guidance, please contact a member of our Family Team who will be happy to assist.