From today, 2 December 2019, opposite sex couples wishing to enter into a civil partnership will be able to give 28 days’ notice of their intention, meaning that the first heterosexual civil partnerships can take place from 31 December 2019.
The Civil Partnership (Opposite Sex Couples) Regulations 2019 allows opposite sex couples to form a civil partnership rather than to opt for a traditional marriage meaning they now have the full range of options available, just as same sex couples do. This is welcome news for heterosexual couples as it gives them a further choice and ensures that everyone has the same options as to how they regulate their relationship.
Cohabiting couples continue to be the fastest growing family type. Between 1996 and 2016, the number of cohabitants doubled from 1.5 million families to 3.3 million (according to the Office for National Statistics).
A Civil Partnership provides the parties with similar rights as a married couple, including legal provision in the event of breakdown of the relationship.
However, it does still leave a gap for cohabitants, those that decide not to marry or enter into a civil partnership, and choose to simply live together instead. Despite the common misconception, there is no such thing as ‘common law husband / wife’ which leaves cohabitants very vulnerable in the event of separation. Worryingly, many cohabitants wrongly believe that they have certain legal rights on separation due to having lived together for a set period, such as 6 months, but sadly this is not the case. This can often leave one of the parties, such as a non-owner occupant of a property, in an unexpected position upon separation when they realise that they have no financial interest in the home.
Whilst there is increased pressure for a change in the law from family law group Resolution, this issue is not expected to be considered in the foreseeable future.