Decades ago, nearly everyone married in a church or had a civil ceremony at a registry office. Traditions change, and couples have tied the knot on mountain tops and under water. Two couples have even been reported to book tickets with Virgin Galactic to get hitched in space.
Some heterosexual couples would also like to move away from the ‘institution’ of marriage and instead choose a civil partnership to formalise their commitment to a lifetime together.
One such couple is Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keiden, a heterosexual couple with two daughters who do not want to marry but wish to be recognised as civil partners. Steinfeld and Keiden ideologically object to marriage and feel that civil partnership is a more modern institution that better reflects their values as a couple and parents.
After a three-and-a-half-year legal battle, the couple successfully argued before the Supreme Court that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 discriminated against heterosexual couples and was therefore incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Supreme Court has ruled in their favour that the government’s decision not to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples was indeed unlawful. The government is now under pressure to reconsider its position and ensure that the inequality between different-sex couples and same-sex couples is rectified
When the Civil Partnership Act was introduced, its intention was to afford same-sex couples the same protection in law and rights to property, pensions and inheritance as heterosexual couples. In March 2014, same-sex couples won the legal right to marry. However, until now, the right to a civil partnership was still expressly denied to heterosexual couples.
‘Couples who are married or in a civil partnership are recognised as next of kin and have greater rights and legal and financial protection in the event of a relationship breakdown, than those who simply live together,’ explains Glynis Wainman, family law solicitor at Hancock Quins Solicitors in Watford.
‘Before making a change to your domestic relationship status and living arrangements with your partner it is advisable to take legal advice. A little thought and planning in advance, with the help of a family law specialist, could help avoid a mess should your relationship come to an end,’ she adds.
Our family law team can advise you on the legal position with regard to your rights to your home, your responsibilities as a parent and financial entitlement in the event of a separation from your partner. We can also help you draw up a cohabitation agreement or prenuptial agreement to give you greater reassurance and protect your business interests and other assets.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.