Following the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling last year that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 – which currently only applies to same sex couples – is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, the government have confirmed that opposite-sex couples would be able to register civil partnerships by the end of this year.
There is still a lot of work needed to finalise the details before the legislation can be implemented. The government will have a consultation later this year on the formation, dissolution and voiding of civil partnerships, religious protections, implications for pensions, capital gains tax, conversion between civil partnerships and marriages and other issues.
Notwithstanding this, the government will be required to enact regulations extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples by 31 December 2019.
What are civil partnerships?
A civil partnership is formed when two people (currently of the same sex) register as civil partners of each other, which ends only on death, dissolution or annulment. There is no requirement for a ceremony to take place or to exchange vows, unlike for a marriage, but you can do so if you wish.
Civil partnerships were created in 2004 to allow same sex couples (who at the time could not marry) similar legal and financial protection to a marriage.
The law then changed in 2014 so that same sex couples could legally get married in this country.
Civil partnership vs marriage – what is the difference?
In short, there is very little legal difference between the two types of union. Couples in a civil partnership or a marriage generally have the same legal rights, responsibilities and obligations including the acquisition of parental responsibility, child maintenance, pension entitlement on death and the ability to make financial claims in respect of property, pensions or income on divorce/dissolution.
However, marriage can come with historical, religious and gendered connotations which can be unappealing for some, or of fundamental importance for others. Civil partnerships could therefore offer an attractive alternative as it is still a relatively new type of union representing a blank canvas.
Whether you are planning to celebrate your union by entering into a marriage or a civil partnership, it is a good idea to financially protect yourself with a prenuptial or a pre-civil partnership agreement.
These documents are available for all types of union and can help to protect your assets in the event of a divorce, dissolution or annulment. For more information on prenuptial agreements please read our helpful article here.
If you would like to know about the issues discussed in this article please contact the Family Team on 01603 610911.
Note: The content of this article is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken in any specific circumstance.