Marriage versus Civil Partnerships

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Prime Minister, Theresa May, has announced that opposite sex couples will be allowed to enter civil partnerships as an alternate to getting married, a right only previously awarded to same sex couples.

Civil partnerships have been open to same sex couples since 2005. Marriage has been open to same sex couples since 2014. The new laws will end an anomaly which limits opposite-sex couples to marriage only.

Charles Keidan, 41, and Rebecca Steinfeld, 31, from London, argued that their human rights were breached, as it was discriminatory to restrict civil partnership to same-sex couples by law. They wanted their relationship to have legal recognition without the “patriarchal baggage”.

For some couples, marriage isn’t seen as a “good fit”. It may be that they do not want a religious ceremony. Others dislike the institution of marriage and would prefer to unite legally in a different manner, which a civil partnership will permit.

Some 3.3 million couples in the UK live together but are not married. Nearly half of them have children. Yet, despite sharing their financial responsibilities, the families lack the full legal rights offered by marriage or civil partnerships.

In her announcement, 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.”

A civil partnership is a legal contract which gives the couple rights and responsibilities in respect of each other. In the eyes of the law, it places them on a virtually identical footing to those who are married. One of the most significant benefits is that those in civil partnerships have the same inheritance rights as a married couple, allowing one partner to pass on their property to the other, rather than facing a big tax bill.

Following this news, Sir Edward Leigh MP tweeted: Why not for siblings too? A further tweet said: Why should siblings who've lived together for years have to pay estate duty when one dies? The current law means that when one member of a committed sibling couple dies, the second sibling often has to sell the joint home to raise enough money to cover the inheritance tax bill on his or her share.

Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Amendment) (Sibling Couples) Bill received its second reading in the House of Lords on 20 July 2018. If this bill is passed, siblings aged 30 or over will be eligible to register as civil partners if they have lived together for a continuous period of 12 years immediately prior to the date of registration.

Myerson regularly provide assistance to the LGBTQ community and can advise on all issues relating to divorce and civil partnership dissolution. We also advise on wealth protection matters such as inheritance & estate planning and draft prenuptial agreements and civil partnership agreements. 

If you require advice you can contact one of our family law solicitors on 0161 941 4000 or email us at lawyers@myerson.co.uk.

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