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Marriage or civil partnership – more choice for couples

A change in the law now offers mixed-sex couples up and down the country the option of forming a civil partnership instead of getting married.

The change, which offers couples a more modern way to formalise their relationship, comes after Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan won a 5-year legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court, in their bid to open up civil partnerships to all couples.

Previously, the law only allowed same-sex couples to enter civil partnerships. These were first introduced as a means of providing same sex couples with the same legal rights as married couples.

During 2013, more than 5,600 same-sex couples formalised their relationship in this way. However, the number fell sharply to only 861 when same-sex marriage became legal.

It was this imbalance that prompted the legal battle to allow mixed-sex couples the right to choose between civil partnership and marriage in the same way that same-sex couples could.

As a result of the change in the law, mixed-sex couples were formally allowed to conduct their civil partnership from 31 December, 28 days after the minimum statutory notice period.

One couple taking advantage of the new law said they had both previously been married, and they strongly objected to having to repeat vows to one another that they knew hadn’t worked the first time.

Whilst another felt that their union was more about the equality of a partnership than a marriage.

Don Bird, family law solicitor at Atherton Godfrey, welcomed the change and commented: “Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as common-law marriage. Unfortunately, couples who just live together, regardless of the number of years, simply do not have the same legal protection as married couples. This change in the law removes that discrimination and provides legal and financial security throughout the relationship as well as protection in the event the relationship ends.”

Why a civil partnership instead of marriage?
A civil partnership is a legally recognised relationship that offers many of the same benefits as marriage, in terms of pensions, benefits and inheritance. However, there are no religious aspects and couples do not exchange vows.

When it comes to ending a civil partnership the dissolution process is similar to marriage, except that adultery cannot be used as a reason.

The government estimates that around 84,000 mixed sex couples will form civil partnerships during 2020.

Marrying or entering a civil partnership?

If you are planning to formalise your relationship, either by marriage or a civil partnership, and would like to know about protecting your interests, contact us for a confidential chat about your options. Call 01302 320621 or email


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