Will you marry me ... or enter into a civil partnership?

It perhaps doesn’t slip off the tongue in the same way as the traditional proposal, however, from the 31 December 2019 opposite sex couples will be permitted for the first time to enter into a civil partnership as an alternative to marriage.

A civil partnership is a form of civil union between two people that brings largely the same rights and responsibilities as marriage, including the same tax benefits as married couples and the same legal remedies on dissolution of the partnership (the term used for divorce in this context).

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 introduced this form of union for same sex couples. It was a half way house as at the time the Government declined to extend marriage to same sex couples. However, same sex marriage was legalised in 2014 in England, Wales and Scotland and this provided an option for civil partners to convert their civil partnership to marriage if they wished. Consideration was given at the time to abolishing civil partnerships altogether but there were objections on the basis that this may diminish the status of those who had entered into a civil partnership previously.

Following a legal challenge by an opposite sex couple, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who wanted to enter a civil partnership rather than to marry, the Supreme Court ruled in June 2018 that only allowing same sex couples the option of a civil partnership was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. Rebecca and Charles had lived together for a number of years and had children together but did not wish to marry because of what they felt were patriarchal origins of marriage. They wanted something more modern that they felt would be a truly equal partnership.

Without the option to formalise their relationship with a civil partnership, and having to go against their principled objections to marriage, the court agreed that Rebecca and Charles would suffer a economic disadvantage in the event of the death of the other in terms of inheritance tax and rights on death if they had not made a will, and also in the event of the relationship breaking down as there are extremely limited legal protections and remedies for those who live together but do not marry.

The Government passed legislation in March 2019 which opens civil partnerships to all from the 31 December 2019 meaning there is now a choice for everyone as to how they wish to celebrate and formalise their relationship. Which will you choose?

For advice on how to better secure your future whether you are living together, getting married or entering into a civil partnership Rollits Solicitors have the expertise to help. 

Posted on: 17/12/2019

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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