Mixed-sex couples can now enter into civil partnerships if they wish as an alternative to marriage.
The new right came into effect on December 31 last year under the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Act 2019. Completing the legislation was one of the last actions of the government before the December election.
Civil partnerships provide the same rights and responsibilities as marriage. However, under the previous legislation, they were only available to same-sex couples.
Last year the Supreme Court ruled that it was a breach of human rights to deny civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples, sometimes referred to as opposite-sex couples.
The issue arose in a case brought by cohabiting couple Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who didn’t want to get married but felt they should be entitled to the financial privileges that come with marriage.
These include tax benefits such as the marriage allowance and inheritance tax rights. For example, when a person dies, their inheritance tax allowance can be passed to their spouse or civil partner. This right does not extend to cohabiting couples.
Same-sex civil partnerships are likely to be popular with cohabiting couples who want to enjoy the same rights as people who are married. The government estimates that there could be as many as 84,000 ceremonies within the first year.
Couples who don’t want to get married or enter into a civil protection can still protect their interests by drawing up a living together agreement, outlining how their assets should be divided if their relationship breaks down.
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