The Civil Partnership Act 2004 (CPA) states that only same sex couples are able to marry under this piece of legislation. After a three year legal battle, the interpretation of the CPA 2004 was reinforced this month when heterosexual couple Rebecca Steinfeld, 35, and Charles Keidan, 40 of Hammersmith, London, lost their legal battle after the Court of Appeal dismissed their challenge that the couple be allowed to enter into civil partnership.

Over 72,000 people signed a petition in support of the couple to have their relationship recognized under the CPA 2004. The couple did not want to marry as according to Karon Monaghan QC they did not want the “patriarchal baggage, which many consider comes with the institution of marriage”

So what exactly are the differences between getting married and entering into a civil partnership?

Notable differences are as follows:

  • A marriage requires that there be spoken words during the ceremony, whereas with a civil partnership, both parties will have to sign a civil partnership document
  • Married couples cannot call themselves civil partners and vice versa
  • Marriage is governed by different legal regimes, namely; the Marriage Act 1949, Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (the 2013 Act).
  • Marriage is a historic institution that is recognised around the world as being legally binding, however, there are some countries where a civil partnership is not recognised.
  • A marriage is ended by divorce obtaining a decree absolute whereas a civil partnership is ended by dissolution obtaining an interim order of dissolution

In terms of similarities between marriage and a civil partnership these areas include acquiring parental responsibility, child maintenance, inheritance tax, social security, tenancy rights, full life insurance recognition.

In a similar case same sex couple Kate Stewart and Matthew Cole, 46, decided to get a civil partnership in June 2016 in Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory. They had decided marriage was not for them, but in this instance their CP was not recognised in the UK. In a similar case, in October 2016, couple Claire Beale, 49, and Martin Loat, 55, took advantage of new legislation  introduced by the Isle of Man which allowed the couple to enter into a civil partnership, although again their partnership was not legally recognised in the UK.

The Court of Appeal’s decision in Rebecca and Charles’s case has reaffirmed the legislative position on heterosexual couples who want to enter into civil partnerships and unless you are a heterosexual couple willing to travel to the Isle of Man in the knowledge that your civil partnership will not be recognised in the UK, your options to formalise your relationship outside of marriage are limited.

They are, however, planning to take their case to the Supreme Court so their battle is not over yet.

How we can help

If you need advice about the financial implications of entering into marriage or a civil partnership or on the breakdown of a long term relationship, our specialist team of family solicitors can help. Please contact Louise Law in the family department who can arrange an appointment with one of our experts.