Marriage, Civil Partnerships and the ‘common law marriage’

December 3, 2018 12:44 pm Published by

The Government announcing that mixed sex couples will soon be able to enter into civil partnerships as an alternative to traditional marriage has led to a number of people questioning the difference between the two. There has also been some confusion over whether this finally deals with the legalisation of the ‘common law marriage’ misconception.

Civil partnerships have been available to same sex couples since 2004 before they could legally marry in this country. Whilst marriage was made available to same sex partners in 2014 thereby ending any discrimination against same sex couples, there remained an inability for heterosexual couples to enter into a civil partnership. This position was challenged and a ruling in the Supreme Court earlier this year has led to the planned change.

What is the difference between the two?

Although the civil partnership ceremony may be slightly different to a traditional wedding the benefits remain the same in terms of tax, inheritance and pensions. The dissolution procedure is also almost identical to that of a marriage the only difference being that you cannot rely on your partner’s adultery as a reason for ending the partnership.

Importantly, a civil partnership is not the same as the long held misconception of the ‘common law husband/wife’. There is no such thing and those that are not married or in a civil partnership do not have the same legal recourse available to them in the event of the relationship breaking down.

Although there was a recent case that gave some hope to surviving cohabitees who are not entitled to certain benefits as a result of not having been married/in a civil partnership, on the whole, those that choose to cohabit rather than legalise their relationship are at a disadvantage as they do not receive the same tax breaks as married/civil partners and their legal standing on separation is very different.

Whether you choose to marry, enter into a civil partnership or simply cohabit it is important that you understand the legal implications and make the best decision for your family. Both Demelza and John are able to advise on the legal implications of cohabitation, marriage and civil partnerships both prior to and, in the unhappy event that they come to an end. If you would like to discuss this or any other family matter please feel free to contact to Demelza or John on 01473 230033.

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This post was written by Vicki Taylor