In a landmark case in 2018, a heterosexual couple won the right to enter into a civil partnership. This resulted in a change in the law and, as of 31st December 2019,
heterosexual couples who want to legally formalise their relationship can choose
whether to enter into a civil partnership or marry.
So, how do you decide which is best for you?
Difference between civil partnership and marriage
The legal status of civil partnerships and marriages is equivalent. Both confer the same rights in terms of inheritance, pensions and tax benefits, however there are few notable differences:
, Marriage is formed by the exchange of vows, whereas a civil partnership is formed by the signing of a document.
, Currently, on a marriage certificate, only the names of the spouses’ fathers are noted – not their mothers. On a civil partnership document the names of both mothers and fathers are noted.
, Marriage is ended by ‘divorce’ and a civil partnership is ended by ‘dissolution’, although the procedure is fundamentally the same.
, The grounds for annulling or dissolving a civil partnership differ slightly to
those available for ending a marriage by divorce.
, The term ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ is for married couples. In a civil partnership,
the term ‘civil partner’ is used.
Why the change in the law?
Historically, only opposite sex couples could legally formalise their relationship
by marriage and benefit from accompanying rights such as inheritance, pensions and tax benefits.
In 2004 the right to legally formalise a same sex relationship was granted by the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act. However, as heterosexual couples had the right to marry, this didn’t apply to them.
The law developed in 2013 under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act to give
same sex couples the right to marry. Yet, at the same time, the Government
determined that civil partnerships should continue to apply to same sex couples
only. Same sex couples therefore had the choice of civil partnership or marriage,
whereas opposite sex couples didn’t. Calls of discrimination followed, highlighted by the case of Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keiden who wanted to enter a civil partnership as they fundamentally disagreed with the patriarchal origins of marriage.
They challenged the law on the basis that it breached their human rights. The Supreme Court unanimously agreed that restrictions on civil partnerships were
discriminatory. As a result, the law was changed and heterosexual couples now
have the same choice afforded to them as same sex couples: marriage or civil
Of course, whether you and your partner choose to marry or enter into a
civil partnership is a personal decision. Whichever you choose, you should be aware that both carry serious financial implications. It is, therefore, highly sensible to seek advice from a family solicitor before legally formalising your relationship.
If you would like advice on civil partnership or marriage, please contact the family team at Moore Blatch, based in Richmond.
For more information, Laura Sanderson on 020 8332 8678.