Heterosexual couple seeking civil partnership - tomorrow's Supreme Court judgment
In 2014, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan made enquiries at their local registry office with a view to entering into a civil partnership rather than a marriage. They were not permitted to do so because civil partnerships are restricted to same-sex couples only. Following the refusal, Rebecca and Charles launched a legal challenge by way of Judicial Review to the High Court seeking the extension of civil partnerships to heterosexual couples. Now, some three years later, the Supreme Court is due to hand down its judgment tomorrow which could result in heterosexual couples being permitted to enter into civil partnerships.
Commenting on this, Mishcon de Reya Family Lawyer Emma Willing said:
"Civil partnerships came into force in 2005 and meant that, for the first time, same-sex couples were able to enter into a legally recognised relationship. Following the introduction of same sex marriage in 2014, same-sex couples have had the ability to enter into a civil partnership or marriage. At the time of the introduction of same sex marriage in 2014, there was arguably no longer the need to retain civil partnerships other than in respect of couples who had entered into them since 2005.
"There is in fact no difference in terms of the financial consequences which flow from entering into a marriage or civil partnership and therefore, from a legal perspective, the debate is purely one of labels. However, it is clear there is an attraction for couples who do not want to marry but wish to enter into a form of registered partnership becoming partners, rather than husband and wife.
"Even if the Supreme Court judgment results in the government being forced to introduce legislation that enables heterosexual couples to enter into civil partnerships, this would not address the urgent need for reform in respect to cohabitees' rights. Marriage and civil partnership rates are in decline. With cohabiting couple families now the second largest family type in the UK, representing a total of around 3.3 million families, the lack any specific family law remedies for cohabitees leaves those individuals vulnerable and without any proper legal protection. Even assuming law reform that sees an uptick in the number of civil partnerships being contracted each year, this is unlikely to benefit the vast majority of cohabiting couples who can suffer significant financial hardship following relationship breakdown."
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