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3rd October 2018

Straight couples to be allowed civil partnerships

Sally Pike, a partner in Thrings’ Family team, considers the implications of the Government’s decision to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples.

Sally Pike

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that the current law relating to civil partnerships was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights as heterosexual couples were denied the right to enter into a civil partnership purely as a result of their sexuality.

Theresa May has this week announced that there is to be a change in the law which will enable both heterosexual and same-sex couples to enter into a civil partnership.

Mrs May said that the proposed change in the law will provide greater security for couples who do not want to enter into marriage but want to formalise the financial arrangements connected to their relationship.

There are an estimated 3.3 million unmarried families in the UK which live together and share financial responsibilities. These families are not able to benefit from the range of provisions enjoyed by married couples and couples in civil partnerships, including those relating to inheritance and engaging with financial remedies in the event of the breakdown of a relationship.

There are a large number of people who assume that because they are living with their partner, and have done for a significant amount of time, they are a ‘common-law spouse’. This is not the case and is, instead, often the cause of much anguish when there is a breakdown of their relationship.

The proposed change in law certainly provides couples with the ability to formalise their financial arrangements without getting married. However, it remains to be seen how many cohabiting couples decide to enter into civil partnerships. It is therefore likely that the vast majority of cohabiting couples will continue to have limited legal rights in the event of separation.

Either way, it is refreshing to see real action taking place in relation to family law. Let’s hope it isn’t long before we read the outcome of the Government’s consultation on faultless divorce and receive confirmation that the law, considered outdated by many, will be updated.

To discuss anything contained in this article, or for advice in relation to the breakdown of a marriage, civil partnership or cohabitation, please contact Sally Pike or another member of Thrings’ Family team.

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