Same-sex marriage was introduced in England and Wales in 2013.
The introduction of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act has given same-sex couples two options as to how to legally formalise their relationship; marriage or civil partnership. Heterosexual couples, however, have not been able to enter into civil partnerships until a recent decision ruled by the Supreme Court on 27 June 2018.
The Difference between Marriage and Civil Partnership
The definition of a marriage is as the legal or formal recognised union of two people as partners in a personal relationship.
The 2013 introduction of Civil partnerships in the UK for same-sex couples gave them the option to legally unite without the label of marriage. The introduction was an interim measure prior to the approval of equal marriage.
The introduction of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 has given same-sex couples two options as to how to formalise their relationship in law; marriage or civil partnership, whereas heterosexual couples can still only marry.
Civil partnerships were introduced in the UK for same-sex couples to legally unite them without the label of marriage, and are still currently only available for same-sex couples. They were essentially introduced as an interim measure before equal marriage was approved.
Despite there being no major differences between civil partnerships and marriage, there are some which include:
- Civil partners cannot call themselves “married” for legal purposes.
- Civil partnership certificates include the names of both parents of the parties. Marriage certificates include the names of only the fathers of the parties.
- Adultery cannot be used as a reason to dissolve the Civil Partnership. In a marriage, if one party is unfaithful this is grounds for divorce. This isn’t the case in civil partnership dissolution. Adultery isn’t recognised by same-sex partners.
Is the Law about to Change?
On the 27 June 2018, The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favour of a heterosexual couple, who have won their legal bid for the right to have a civil partnership instead of marriage.
The court stated that the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which only applies to same-sex couples, is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights as it breached a person’s right to privacy and family life.
Although this judgment does not oblige the government to change the law on Civil Partnerships it is more likely that the Government will now act and extend the definition of civil partnership to include heterosexual couples.
Are your Rights Better Protected by Marriage or Civil Partnership?
No one likes to believe that their marriage or civil partnership will come to an end but it is something you may wish to consider before entering into either of them. There are slight differences on your personal entitlement on the breakdown of your marriage or civil partnership.
For more advice, if you are considering entering into a marriage or civil partnership contact us.