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Civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples – A new alternative to marriage

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Civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples - A new alternative to marriage

03 Jan 2020

It’s now possible for opposite-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships in England and Wales, as it was brought into law on 31st December 2019. Following a Supreme Court ruling in June last year, opposite-sex couples, like same-sex couples, should be permitted the choice of marrying one another, or entering into a civil partnership. It was found that the status quo breached the human rights of opposite-sex couples, namely their Article 8 European Convention on Human Rights right to a private life and family life, and subsequently the government passed The Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Act 2019.

What’s the difference between marriage and civil partnerships?

Civil partnerships confer the same benefits as marriage, including financial benefits such as tax breaks and tax allowances, and inheritance rights. Whilst marriage ceremonies can be religious or civil, so too can civil partnership ceremonies. Practically, therefore, what is the difference between the two?

Whilst a marriage is ended with divorce, a civil partnership is ended with dissolution. Adultery can be cited as a ground for divorce, however, it cannot be cited to dissolve a civil partnership. This is a move away from the ‘blame culture’ which can often engulf divorce proceedings.

The government’s Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill aims to reform the divorce process in order to remove the concept of ‘fault’ in proceedings. However, the bill’s progress has been delayed and it us unknown when it will be translated into legislation.

Some also argue that civil partnerships promote equality between the sexes. Whilst marriage certificates require just the names and professions of both partners’ fathers, a civil partnership requires the names of both parents.

Other than the above, there is little practical difference between the two.

Why would an opposite-sex couple choose a civil partnership over marriage?

Marriage has long-standing religious and patriarchal connotations. In the past, a woman was defined as a man’s ‘property’ once they were married. Although married couples can opt for civil ceremonies, for some couples this does not adequately distance them from the traditional and religious connotations of marriage.

It is also important for some that both partners’ parents are recognised on the civil partnership certificate. The fact that only fathers’ names and their professions are recorded on marriage certificates heralds back to bygone days when marriage was seen as somewhat of a transaction between the fathers of the bride and groom. By failing to document the mothers’ occupations on certificates, it sends a signal that women’s contributions to family life are lesser than that of their partners.

Moreover, civil partnerships being available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples means that individuals’ sexuality will be kept private when they come to fill out any official forms/paperwork. Currently, by ticking the box ‘civil partnership’, an individual is declaring their sexuality, which a person may not want to do. Once civil partnerships are available to all, ticking the ‘civil partnership’ box on forms will no longer be indicative of a person’s sexuality, which in turn, further reduces the infringement of a person’s right to a private life.

If you would like advice on any of the topics mentioned above, or any other family law matter, then please contact us.

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