Theresa May has announced that civil partnerships are to be extended to opposite-sex couples for the first time.   The move will provide equality to same-sex couples as currently, both same-sex and opposite-sex couples are able to marry, but only same-sex couples may form civil partnerships. The move is unsurprising as in June 2018, the Supreme Court ruling involving Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan declared that the current law was discriminatory and therefore in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Campaigners for civil partnership equality have been dissatisfied with what the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign group believe to be the “patriarchal baggage” of marriage.  For example, only a father’s name is recorded on a marriage certificate and not a mother’s name.  However, both parent’s names can be recorded on a civil partnership certificate. Nevertheless, in legal terms, there is very little difference between marriages and civil partnerships. 

Perhaps the key difference is that when applying for dissolution of a civil partnership, civil partners cannot cite adultery as a fact on its own to prove that the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably, whereas a spouse who wishes to petition for divorce can rely solely upon adultery, provided the adultery was with a member of the opposite sex.  In practice, this is a minor difference, as the fact that one party has had an intimate relationship with another person outside of the civil partnership/marriage, could be used to establish the fact of unreasonable behaviour, and to establish that the marriage or civil partnership has broken down irretrievably.

Nevertheless, the rights created by a civil partnership are equivalent to those created by a marriage, including in relation to the division of assets accumulated during the civil partnership/marriage on dissolution/divorce. Therefore, just as some marrying couples enter into pre-nuptial agreements to regulate how those assets are to be divided if they later separate or divorce, couples who wish to enter into a civil partnership may also wish to enter into a pre-civil partnership agreement.

If you would like advice on marriage, civil partnership, or pre-nuptial and pre-civil partnership agreements, contact our family team by emailing or calling 01753 279046

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