Relationship Equality

Posted by Christine Plews on

The law relating to couples has altered considerably since I qualified as a solicitor in 2003.

Prior to 2005, marriage was only open to opposite sex couples. After 2005, we have seen the Civil Partnership Act come into force which enabled, for the first time, same sex couples to have their relationship legally recognised by them entering into a Civil Partnership.

We then saw a further change in 2014 when the law was changed to allow same sex couples to get married or, if they had already entered into a Civil Partnership, the option of converting their civil partnerships into a marriage thereby affording their relationship the same legal status as opposite sex married couples.

Although these changes are welcome, and reflect the nature of the society we live in today, there is still a gap in this area of law that needs to be filled.

Following on from Karen Maloney's recent blog about the myth surrounding common law husbands and wives, for some opposite sex couples the social expectations surrounding marriage is not something that they want to get involved with and, as a result, they do not want to get married.

However, unless they actually get married, there is no way for these individuals to formalise their relationship and provide them with the security of the various legal rights and benefits that marriage provides.

To address this, whilst the obvious answer would be that the opposite sex couples should enter into a Civil Partnership, as this would give them almost identical rights to married couples, without having to be labelled as 'husband' and 'wife'. Unfortunately, this is currently not possible as the law does not allow opposite sex couples to enter into a Civil Partnership.

This obvious gap has been highlighted as discriminatory towards opposite sex couples and a change to this area of law may be on the horizon as permission has recently been granted for a judicial review to take place in January 2016 on this issue. This review may ultimately result in opposite sex couples being given the option of entering into a Civil Partnerships as opposed to getting married.

If such a change occurs, this will undoubtedly be a positive one as if, as a society, we are aiming for all couples' relationships to be equally recognised in a legal sense, then equality must be a two way street and the same options must be open to all.

About the Author

Photograph of Christine Plews

Christine leads the Family Law Practice Group and specialises in matters arising out of divorce and separation, including cohabitee disputes. She is an experienced mediator.

Christine Plews
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01865 254213

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