More legal protection offered for unmarried couples

A new change in the law is set to offer more legal protection for unmarried couples.

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 enabled same sex couples to enter into a civil partnership, whilst the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 allowed same sex couples to marry. However, in June 2018 the Supreme Court decided that just offering civil partnerships as an option to same sex couples, but not to mixed couples, was a breach of European Law. 

Theresa May has now announced a change in the law. Mixed sex couples will be able to enter into civil partnerships if they don’t want to marry but want aspects of their relationship to be formalised legally eg giving them the same rights of inheritance and rights in respect of pensions as if they were married.

Unmarried couples are the fastest growing type of ‘family’. It’s believed that 3.3 million unmarried couples in the UK live together, many of whom have children and live as families.

Although many believe that living with a partner for a period of time makes them ‘common law man and wife’ with the same rights as if they were married, this is not the case legally.

Entering into a civil partnership involves a couple signing a register to register. There doesn’t have to be a ceremony and the couple don’t have to exchange any vows or form of wording, although many couples opt to do so. The couple need two witnesses. The ceremony cannot have any religious aspects to it (eg bible readings or hymn singing) and places of worship are not obliged to carry out civil partnership registrations. Many enter into civil partnerships at a registry office for a fee of approximately £50 including a copy of the civil partnership certificate.

A civil partnership crucially offers legal and financial protection for both parties in the event of their relationship ending or the death of one of the parties.

For more information and advice, please contact our Family Law team by calling 0113 201 4902 or emailing

Gabbie  Clasper

Written by

Gabbie Clasper

Head of Family Law

Gabbie has over 20 years’ experience in family law. She has expert knowledge in complex issues including financial aspects following divorce; pre and post-nuptial agreements; cases with an international element; and civil partnerships. Gabbie is regularly instructed by clients based across the country and abroad. She...

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