Are Civil Partnerships just for same sex couples? | Howells Solicitors

Are Civil Partnerships just for same sex couples?

2019 has seen the development of Civil Partnerships as they now allow mixed sex couples to register. However there is still confusion surrounding the difference between a Civil Partnership and marriage. Senior matrimonial specialist, John Clegg, explains.

As of this week (end of December 2019) couples in a mixed sex relationship in England and Wales can now register their intent to enter a Civil Partnership. This follows the law which was introduced in 2005 to allow same-sex couples to enter Civil Partnerships.

The minimum period of notice for a Civil Partnership is 28 days, meaning that the mixed-sex couples who register their intent on the first day may carry out their civil partnerships from as early as New Year’s Eve 2019.

But what is a Civil Partnership and how are they different to a Marriage?

The legislation of Civil Partnerships came into force in 2005 and was intended to provide legal recognition in respect of the relationship between a same-sex couple whilst confirming additional rights and responsibilities.

In 2014, there was an extension of marriage to allow same-sex couples the right to marry. Those couples who had previously formed a Civil Partnership were given the right to convert their Civil Partnership to marriage.

This now means all forms of relationships are equal and choice can be made by all couples whether to get married or enter a Civil Partnership.

However many couples would prefer to opt for a Civil Partnership as they do not agree with the ideas and traditions of marriage, as marriage traditionally refers to a women being ‘given away’ and having to announce that she will ‘obey’ her husband for ever.

Due to the intention behind Civil Partnerships, there remains little fundamental difference between these and marriage in a legal sense. However, there are subtle differences which should be considered:

  • Married couples cannot legally refer to themselves as civil partners, nor can civil partners refer to themselves as married
  • Marriage includes a ceremony where words are exchanged as a way of entering into a marriage. In respect of a Civil Partnership, there is no legal obligation to have a ceremony as the partnership is entered into by way of signing a civil partnership document
  • The certificate for marriage only includes the name of the fathers of the parties in comparison to a civil partnership where the names of both parents to the parties are recorded
  • Adultery cannot be relied upon in a Civil Partnership dissolution

It’s also important to note that cohabitation or ‘common law’ relationships do not exist legally, and can only hold any legal standing with a formal cohabitation contract written by a Solicitor in place.

John is a senior family law Solicitor in Howells’ large matrimonial team and specialises in all aspects of matrimonial law including divorce, civil partnership and cohabitation agreements and breakdown, financial matters arising on separation and divorce, pre and post-nuptial agreements and protection from domestic abuse. He also specialised in children disputes, the arrangements for children and domestic and international child abductions.

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