On 31st December 2019 the first civil partnerships between heterosexual couples were entered into. Civil partnerships came into effect in 2004 for same sex couples, this was extended to marriage in 2014. There then followed a legal bid to allow heterosexual couples to enter into civil partnerships. Those supporting a change in the law felt that marriage was riddled with patriarchal history and religion and civil partnerships would allow couples to enter into a legally binding relationship with each other without the connotations seen as being attached to marriage.

What does this mean for someone trying to decide between entering into a marriage or a civil partnership? Legally, there really is no difference. A civil partnership will give the same rights as if you were married, therefore the same rights on dissolution as divorce. In turn therefore it is just as important for couples, whether heterosexual or homosexual, or whether entering marriage or a civil partnership, to consider whether they should enter into an agreement pre marriage or partnership to record what the parties would want to happen in the event of their separation. For those that do not want to enter into marriage or civil partnership there still remains the option of entering into a cohabitation agreement.

The important thing to remember when you are in a long-term relationship is that unless you enter into a legal agreement of some sort your legal claims against your partner in the event of your separation are extremely limited, especially when you have no children together. Despite popular belief to the contrary, there is no such thing as common law marriage. There remains the misconception, despite continuous campaigns by both the government and various legal institutions, that if you live together as a couple for more than 2 years that you have some sort of legal status as a partner. This is not true. Therefore, it is important to consider as an individual what would your situation be if you and your partner separate or they died so you can discuss with your partner how to rectify any legal vulnerability.

If you do have further queries surrounding this or wish to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, please contact the Family team at any one of our branches.

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