couple signing a pre-nup for civil partnership

Heterosexual couples will now be eligible for civil partnerships, the government has announced. The move resolves an imbalance between the choices available for same sex and heterosexual couples. Previously only same-sex couples could choose between a civil partnership or marriage. The new move will allow heterosexual couples the same choice.


Civil partnerships and common law spouse

As we’ve said many times, there is no such status in law as a common law husband or wife. Currently, if you are not married, and you split up as a couple, you are treated a single people, not as a married couple. So, you do not have the same rights as a married couple when it comes to crucial financial issues, such as tax benefits, pensions and inheritance.

Equally, unmarried couples do not have the same rights as married couples if your partner falls ill and is taken into hospital. The wishes of your partner’s next of kin override the wishes of an unmarried partner, which can be very difficult if you don’t have good relationships with their family.

Being a civil partner ensures you can be at the bedside, your children are yours as a couple, and overall you enjoy the same legal rights as married couples.


A pre-CP agreement

It’s likely that many heterosexual couples looking at civil partnerships may have already been together for some time and have shared assets. Unless you have an existing cohabitation agreement, it’s a good idea to consider a pre-CP, our phrase for an equivalent of a pre-nuptial agreement made before you enter into a civil partnership.

A pre-CP is an excellent way to protect both shared and individual assets. The pre-CP would set out what each partner brings to the relationship in terms of property, money and other assets. It also sets out how these would be divided in the event of the civil partnership ending.

Whilst a prenup/pre-CP is a contract drawn up by a legal professional, it is not currently legally binding in the courts of England and Wales. However, a judge is likely to take any pre-CP agreement into account in any civil partnership dissolution request.


Conditions for a valid pre-CP

We assume that the same general conditions will apply to a pre-CP as a pre-nuptial contract. A judge will therefore need to ensure that before signing it:

  • Each partner received independent legal advice
  • Each partner made a full disclosure of their assets
  • Neither party were put under pressure to sign
  • The division of assets is fair and reasonable
  • The pre-CP was signed at least three weeks before the civil partnership was formed

(We prefer we prefer longer to allow parties not to feel stressed during the process and ruin their ceremony.)

Your pre-CP from LGFL Ltd

At LGFL, we have years of experience in creating pre-nups that have proved their worth both for the couples and in the courts.

We’ll help you and your civil-partner-to-be create a pre-civil partnership contract that is fair, realistic and (hopefully) never needed! If it is, our professional experience, care and attention to detail will give it the weight and authority required in court.

We can also help update any existing agreements (including cohabitation agreements) as your circumstances change. Call us or email us.


Pre-CPs - we come to you (almost!)

We know how difficult it is to find time in the working week to visit a solicitor about a pre-nup or pre-CP. So, we can meet you in central Reading or Basingstoke, so you can discuss your requirements during your lunch hour or at the end of your working day.

Alternatively, you are more than welcome to come and meet us in our discreet countryside offices in Swallowfield, on the Hampshire/Berkshire border. Just call us or fill in our enquiry form, and our team will get back to you within one working day.

Who might choose an opposite sex civil partnerships?

You should consider a civil partnership if as a couple you are uncomfortable with the term ‘married’, or who don’t wish to align yourselves with a religious connotation for your relationship. This is an option that gives you both the security and certainty of a recognised legal status without using the term ‘married’.

Once in law, civil partnerships for opposite sex couples should award couples almost all the same rights as a married couple. The main exception is that you currently cannot dissolve a civil partnership on the grounds of adultery.


Divorce or dissolution?

If you are in a civil partnership and want to end it, you do not get a divorce. Instead, your civil partnership is dissolved. You cannot dissolve a partnership until it has lasted for at least one year. Like in divorce, you need to send paperwork to a court to ask permission to dissolve your civil partnership. As with divorce, your and your partner will need to make a financial settlement, and agree on arrangement for looking after your children, if any.


Questions about getting a civil partnership agreement?

Call us and make an appointment - we’re happy to help with this new form of pre civil partnership agreement for heterosexual couples.

A man and woman in gentle embrace on white background

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court has unanimously ruled in favour of a heterosexual couple who want to enter into a civil partnership rather than get married.

The Supreme Court decided that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 does not conform to the European Convention on Human Rights in that it applies only to same-sex couples. The issue is therefore about inequality, as heterosexual couples currently do not have a choice, but same sex couples do.


Equality in all things

For Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who brought the case, it’s not a case of equality of legal rights between marriage and a civil partnership. Under current legislation, married and civil partnered couples already enjoy the same legal rights in respect of inheritance, pensions, tax and next of kin status.

It is the discrimination of heterosexual couples having to be married to get those rights that is at the heart of this case. The couple have stated that they do not believe in marriage, but should still have the same right to enter a civil partnership, to protect each other on key issues such as death and divorce. Only opposite sex couple who are married can have these rights, not co-habitees or so-called common law spouses.

So, for opposite sex couples, it’s marriage or nothing, as Mr Keidan explained after emerging from the hearing:

“There are 3.3 million cohabiting couples in this country. Many want legal recognition and financial protection but cannot have it because they are not married, and civil partnerships are not available to them. The law needs to catch up with the reality of family life in 2018.”

LGBT and human rights groups have welcomed the ruling, including campaigner Peter Tatchell, who was quoted by the BBC as saying:

“It was never fair that same-sex couples had two options, civil partnerships and civil marriages, whereas opposite-sex partners had only one option, marriage."

The Supreme Court ruling overturns a previous ruling by the Court of Appeal, which rejected a similar claim by the couple last year. This ruling by the Supreme Court does not put the Government under obligation to change the law, but it is likely to be looked at very closely. Civil partnerships for heterosexual couples have been available on the Isle of Man since October 2016.


More time please

Whilst accepting that the current law is unequal in its treatment, previously the Government had claimed it needed more time to decide on the future of civil partnerships.

In his judgement, Lord Kerr dismissed this roundly:

"What it (the government) seeks is tolerance of the discrimination while it sorts out how to deal with it. That cannot be characterised as a legitimate aim."

The future of civil partnerships

The Government issues a Briefing Paper “The future of civil partnerships” on 1 February 2018, outlining the various campaigns that have called for civil partnerships top be extended to opposite sex couples. Long-time campaigner and MP Tim Loughton has tried to get a Private Members’ Bill passed in 2016 and 2017, and outlined the reasons as follows:
"(Marriage) is seen as too much of an establishment thing to do. For many, it is identified as an innately religious institution; even if done in a register office, it has religious connotations. Some see it as having a patriarchal side—as being some form of social control and not a proper partnership. "If just one in 10 cohabiting opposite-sex couples entered into a civil partnership, it would cover some 300,000 couples and their children. It would offer the prospect of yet greater security and stability, less likelihood of family breakdown, and better social and financial outcomes."


Civil partnership statistics

However, figures from the Office for National Statistics are not quite so positive. 890 civil partnerships were formed in England and Wales in 2016 (the latest figures available). In contrast, 1,313 civil partnership dissolutions were granted in the same time period. As with marriage, a civil partnership in itself is no guarantee of a longer lasting union. If you need to discuss your future marriage plans, or need to dissolve an existing civil partnership, call us for advice.
If you missed what we’ve been sharing this month, here’s a round up of our blogs and some of the news posts on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Read More

In a ground-breaking new law, heterosexual couples can now form civil partnerships in the Isle of Man. The law was changed at the same time as legalising same-sex marriage, bringing the Island more in line with the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland.


Read More

Heterosexual couple Jimmy Pierce, 30, and Laura Cochrane, 25 are expecting their first baby and want to formalise their relationship, but not with a wedding. They want a civil partnership, which is currently only available to same-sex couples.