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Heterosexual couple civil partnerships to be available

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Every couple in England and Wales will, in future, be able to choose between a civil partnership and a marriage if they choose to formalise their relationship, the Prime Minster has recently announced.

The government has agreed to extend civil partnerships, which have been available to same sex couples since 2005, to everyone.

This will provide a significant change for heterosexual couples who at present can only marry to provide them with legal protection. There are estimated to be at least 3.3 million unmarried families currently living together in the UK. The introduction of a civil partnership will offer couples who do not wish to marry a choice of entering into a civil partnership which will provide them with more legal protection than they have as a cohabiting couple. The government’s proposals are therefore intended to provide greater security for unmarried couples and their families.

The move puts an end to the ”blatant inequality” that the Supreme Court identified in June this year where Miss Steinfield and Mr Keidan won their legal bid when the Judge found that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 was incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights. The non-availability of civil partnerships for heterosexual couples was found to be in breach of human rights law.

There is no current difference between the financial claims that are available on either the breakdown of a civil partnership or a marriage and therefore deciding between the two will be a matter of personal preference. This decision will not change the legal rights of couples who co-habit without marrying or having a civil partnership. The reform of that area of law remains long overdue as it can cause enormous distress when cohabiting partners discover that on separation or the death of their partner they have fewer inheritance, property and pension rights than they had thought.

It should be noted that a civil partnership should not be seen as marriage lite. Leaving a civil partnership will involve the same formalities as ending a marriage, although adultery cannot be used. The government has announced that it will launch a consultation on no fault divorce to simplify the confrontational procedure for separation which will hopefully also help parties wishing to end 57 a civil partnership.

If you have any queries in relation to civil partnerships please contact Jane Ingleby on 0113 336 3354 or at jane.ingleby@clarionsolicitors.com

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