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Civil partnership consultation to bring major changes

Government plans could bring major changes to the way couples can secure their rights in an alternative to marriage, an expert has warned.

Under a consultation announced this week, civil partnerships could be extended to heterosexual couples.

Civil partnership ceremonies are non-religious, and civil partners have the same financial rights upon divorce as married couples. To end a civil partnership a couple must dissolve it, the same way a divorce will end a marriage.

Helen Lucking, head of the Family team at regional law firm Napthens, explained how civil partnerships and marriages can give couples similar rights in a number of areas.

She said: “The inheritance rights are the same upon the death of one partner as they are with married couples, and in relation to children, civil partners have the same rights in respect of the children of their relationship as children of married couples.

“Civil partnerships were put in place historically to allow same sex couples to have a recognised union which gave them the same rights as married couples but without it being a marriage.

“Marriage for same-sex couples was then introduced some years later and so civil partnerships found less favour.

“However, there has been a steady groundswell of heterosexual couples campaigning for the right to have a civil partnership themselves, and the Government is now set to hold a consultation on this.

“The Government has said it is set to address the difference in the way same-sex and heterosexual couples are treated under marriage law, and of course any ideas to address an imbalance in the law should be welcomed.

“Many in the legal industry and beyond will be awaiting the outcome of the consultation with interest, as this could mark a significant change in the law for many people in the future.”

Family and Divorce - Partner - Helen Lucking