Opposite sex couples can now take advantage of the recent change in the law allowing them to enter into a civil partnership.
Ann Chamings and John Eccles became one of the first couples in the UK to become opposite sex civil partners on New Years Eve 2019. They had been in a relationship for 43 years, but never felt marriage with its traditional, religious connotations aligned with their relationship.
Rational Behind the Change in Law
In 2004 civil partnerships were introduced, enabling same sex couples over 16 to marry. In 2013, same sex marriage became legal, giving same sex couples autonomy to decide whether they would prefer a civil partnership or marriage depending on their individual beliefs and views. The same option was, until recently, unavailable to opposite sex couples, with marriage being the only available option for couples wanting to benefit from certain rights.
Now, opposite sex couples have the option to choose a civil ceremony, which will enable couples to benefit from the exact same rights as married couples, such a pensions, tax and inheritance, without religion being aligned to the relationship.
What is a Civil Ceremony?
A civil ceremony does not involve any exchanging of vows, it is simply valid after both parties sign the civil partnership document. Once this has been signed, the parties are known as ‘civil partners’ and will not be ‘husband’ and ‘wife’.
How Do Unmarried Couples Benefit From a Civil Partnership?
Unmarried co-habitees do not receive the same rights as married couples; this is something that has received considerable criticism. Additionally, upon separation, the principles that are considered in a financial settlement in divorce proceedings also do not apply to unmarried couples.
Another benefit of a couple entering into a civil partnership is that if there is a relationship breakdown, there is an increased chance of fairness as to how assets will be split. For instance, if a married couple separate, factors such as the needs of both parties and fairness will govern what happens to the matrimonial pot. By comparison, the standard position for an unmarried couple is that joint assets are split equally. In some circumstances this leaves an economically weaker party in a disadvantageous position. For instance, if one party has historically been the lower earner and took the primary role of raising children, it may not be fair to split equity in the family home equally. The option of entering into a civil partnership will address this imbalance.
What If a Couple Doesn’t Want to Enter into a Marriage or Civil Partnership?
It is advised that if you wish to remain cohabitees, it is important to consider a cohabitation agreement. This agreement can cover what is to happen to property if the relationship breaks down and reduces the possibility of a potential dispute.