Mixed sex civil partnerships: a step towards equality

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Family Law on Friday, January 17th, 2020

In 2018, London couple Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan won a landmark legal bid at the Supreme Court for the right to enter into a civil partnership. Previously, only same sex couples had been permitted this right, as granted by the Civil Partnership Act 2004; however, following the Supreme Court judgment, then Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the law would be changed. On 2 December 2019, the new law came into effect, with this date marking the first day mixed sex couples could register their intent to enter into a civil partnership. Since the minimum notification period for a civil partnership is 28 days, the first mixed sex couples to enter into this union did so on New Year’s Eve 2019 – Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan among them.


But… why not just get married?

Many unmarried couples believe they have the same legal rights as married couples through so-called ‘common-law marriage’ – but this status doesn’t actually exist in the UK. In fact, unmarried couples have shockingly few legal rights, even if they have been together for many years. Historically, their solution has simply been to get married – but for an increasing number of modern couples, marriage has become an archaic and patriarchal institution that no longer reflects their attitudes and values.

Unlike marriage, a civil partnership avoids taking part in any kind of religious ceremony, and steers couples away from the antiquated notion that women are possessions to be given away by male members of the family. Furthermore, only the father’s name and occupation can be listed on a wedding certificate, while civil partnership registration forms have space to list both the couple’s fathers and mothers, putting women on a more equal footing. Essentially, it offers couples the legal protection they deserve without any of the old-fashioned principles embodied by marriage.


Is there any other way of protecting ourselves legally?

Increasingly, modern couples simply want to live their lives together without the hassle of registering their relationship formally, whether through marriage or civil partnership. Unfortunately, this makes them vulnerable from a legal standpoint. At Attwaters Jameson Hill, we fully support relationships in all their forms and are committed to equality and diversity. Therefore, our expert Family Law solicitors would be delighted to advise you on other options to safeguard your relationship, giving you the peace of mind that you and your partner will be fully protected.

For example, we can help you to draft a Living Together Agreement, sometimes known as a Cohabitees Agreement, which may suit your personal circumstances better. These agreements set out how you would split your property and other assets in the unfortunate event of a relationship breakdown. They can also cover how you will deal with your finances while living together, such as what proportion of the mortgage and bills you each pay, whether you will take out life insurance on each other, or even how you will support your children.


Come to us

If you would like to know more about what’s involved in the civil partnership process, or to find out more about Living Together Agreements, please contact our family team on 0330 221 8855 or email familylaw@attwaters.co.uk.


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