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The press has been full of news about a major change in Family Law with the possibility of a heterosexual couple being able to enter into a legal relationship known as a Civil Partnership

In 2004 Civil Partnerships were first introduced into the law of England and Wales which enabled same sex couples over the age of 16 to be together with legal recognition of their tax, pension and benefit entitlements. Civil partners were also able to avoid potentially crippling Inheritance Tax bills on the date of death of the first in such a partnership. However, the law fell short of allowing a same sex couple to marry or indeed allow heterosexual couples to enter into a Civil Partnership.

Ten years later with the introduction of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 the first same sex couples were able to marry in a flurry of publicity. Elton John and his now husband, David Furnish, were one of the first celebrities to marry.

There has been a long-standing campaign leading to a Supreme Court ruling in June 2018 that Civil Partnerships should be available for heterosexual couples in just the same way as they had been available to same sex couples for some years.

Civil Partnerships provide legal protection but without any religious connotations. Some have commented that Civil Partnerships could now be available to include non-romantic relationships.

There are some small differences between marriage and Civil Partnerships, in particular:

  • a Marriage Certificate requires the names of both parties’ fathers whereas a Civil Partnership document requires the names of both parties’ parents;
  • Civil Partners cannot call themselves married.
  • a marriage is ended with Decree Absolute, whilst a Civil Partnership is ended with a Dissolution Order; and
  • adultery is not a valid reason to dissolve a Civil Partnership whereas it can be utilised the end a marriage on divorce.

A Civil Partnership does provide rights of next of kin and certain exemptions from Inheritance Tax.

The same property rights, pension benefits and the ability to require parental responsibility for a party’s child.

If a same sex couple entered into a Civil Partnership before 2014 and wished to convert their relationship to that of marriage, they are able to do this.

Arguably this change in the law provides a further choice. Family life has had to adapt to modern society and cannot necessarily protect those it should unless it accepts that life is not the same as in 1973 when the last major piece of legislation was introduced and which continues to govern divorce and financial provision.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss further, speak to one of our specialist Family Law solicitors on 01244 310 022 or at