The Civil Partnership Act 2004 – an alternative to marriage

It was announced recently an intended new law change will extend the scope of the Civil Partnership Act 2004. It will mean for the first time opposite sex couples can legally enter into a Civil Partnership (previously only available to same sex couples) and now, no matter their gender, they are to be treated as equal when it comes to wanting to formalise their relationship.

This proposed amendment has come into being following a Supreme Court judgement of the 27th June 2018 in the case of Steinfield and Keiden –v- Secretary of State for International Development ruling that, being restricted only to same sex couples, the Civil Partnership Act 2004 was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights and was therefore discriminating against heterosexual couples.

For mixed sex couples, this means choice. They now have the choice as to how to live their life together and, in this day and age of more diversity and inclusivity of our differences, we no longer have a “one size fits all” to legalising relationships. In entering into a Civil Partnership there is no legal requirement for a ceremony nor to exchange vows and the ceremony of registration must be non-religious and cannot including any singing or any readings. Couples can make their day as they wish. Any following celebrations do not have to follow any convention such as for speeches, who sits where, no bouquet, no wedding breakfast nor cake.

There is no engagement and who knows what the protocol for a proposal will be. It will end gender discriminatory terminology of “husband” and “wife” because civil partners are not “married” for legal purposes. Further, Civil Partnership certificates include the names of both parents of the parties whereas Marriage certificates include the names of only the parties’ fathers.

A Civil Partnership gives one the same rights and remedies as if it were a marriage and divorce. This is an important consideration as it affords the same protection as married spouses enjoy for inheritance, tax and pensions. There is no “divorce” but a civil partner can apply in court to have it “dissolved” and be afforded the same remedies for financial protection as if it were a divorce although, unlike divorce, adultery cannot be cited as the grounds for dissolution.

This is very welcome news for equal rights and choices, and for the thousands of heterosexual couples who seek recognition in law of their relationship but feel the institution of marriage is not for them.

For advice contact Family Law Solicitor Pauline O’Rourke on 0121 796 4025 or email

Thursfields’ expert Family Law Solicitors are available at any of our offices and surrounding areas – Birmingham, Worcester, Kidderminster, Solihull, and Halesowen.

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