Civil partnerships extended to heterosexual couples – but do you know the legal implications?

11th October 2018

Civil partnerships extended to heterosexual couples – but do you know the legal implications?

The news that the Government is to allow heterosexual couples to enter into civil partnerships has been welcomed as a boost for equality.

The Prime Minister said every couple in England and Wales will in future be able to choose between a civil partnership and marriage when they formalise their relationship.

Civil partnerships have been available to same-sex couples since 2005.

The Minister for Women and Equalities, Penny Mordaunt, hailed the move as an “important step forward for equality”.

“There are all sorts of reasons why people may choose not to marry,” she added. “By giving couples this option, we hope to give them and their families more certainty and security.”

The change in the law is designed to help protect the interests of opposite-sex couples who want to formalise their relationship but don’t necessarily want to get married.

However, there are concerns over a perceived lack of understanding over the legal implications of entering into a civil partnership, with some wrongly believing it is much easier to come out of one than a marriage.

Just like with divorce, you cannot apply for a dissolution until the first anniversary of the civil partnership. In the event that a civil partnership does irretrievably break down, like in the case of a marriage break down, the civil partnership can be ended on the basis of unreasonable behaviour, desertion, separation for 2 years with consent or separation for 5 years even if the other party does not consent. However unlike marriage, it is not possible to end a civil partnership solely on the basis of adultery although this can form part of unreasonable behaviour.

Consideration will also need to be given to the division of finances and property following separation. In most cases paying a little extra for a solicitor – who will probe deeper into your needs, both present and future, to ensure that you are making the right decisions – is money very well spent.

Even if you believe that your financial situation is relatively straightforward, failure to seek expert legal advice could have serious financial consequences years later.

Meanwhile, the risks to unmarried couples – of whom there are about 3.3 million in England and Wales – are also misunderstood in some quarters.

The marriage of Sir Ken Dodd to long-term partner Anne Jones just days before his death so that she had inheritance rights to the comic’s fortune was a reminder of the vulnerability of those couples who choose not to tie the knot.

The same stark principles apply to those with more modest estates – namely that upon the death of a partner, unmarried cohabitants do not have rights to their pension, are exposed to inheritance tax and cannot claim certain benefits.

Concerns over the economic vulnerability of unmarried couples have increased in recent years due to a sharp rise in cohabitation and a decline in the number of marriages.

How can Gotelee help?

If you want to end your marriage or civil partnership, we can carefully advise you on the strength of your application to ensure you do not waste time and money on cases that don’t meet the the legal criteria.

We can provide guidance on how to get divorced, the timescales and costs, and the implications surrounding children and financial arrangements.

Our family lawyers can see you in Ipswich, Hadleigh, Felixstowe or Woodbridge. To find out more or to make a fixed fee appointment, call 01473 211121 or email

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