AS WAS reported last week in the press, Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld lost their attempt to see a Judicial Review of the decision that they could not enter into a civil partnership, rather than a marriage.

In 2014 they sought permission to enter into a civil partnership, which was refused on the basis that they were not a same sex couple. They sought permission to challenge this decision, and the case came before Mrs Justice Andrews, who last week refused their application for judicial review. The couple have indicated they intend to appeal, so watch this space.

The Government successfully opposed the application, using one argument that civil partnerships might be phased out, now that same sex couples can legally marry.

The couple had wanted to enter into a civil partnership rather than marry on the basis that they felt it “focuses on equality” and did not carry the patriarchal history and associations of marriage. They also argued that as a heterosexual couple they did not have the same rights as a gay couple and were therefore discriminated against, and further that their rights to a family life under the Human Rights Act were being infringed. These arguments were rejected by the court.

Civil partnerships were introduced by The Civil Partnership Act 2004. It allowed two people of the same sex to enter into a partnership and acquire similar rights to married couples. However same sex marriage was introduced in 2014 in England, Wales and Scotland, has given same sex couples the same right as heterosexual couples to marry.

What are the key differences between marriage and civil partnerships?

Title – married people can refer to themselves as ‘married’ whereas those in a civil partnership cannot.

Ceremony – both marriage and civil partnerships can only be undertaken in this country by official registered to do so, but in the case of marriage this can be either a religious ceremony or a civil one, whereas a civil partnership is purely undertaken in a civil ceremony.

Anulment or divorce – mostly the grounds available to annul a marriage are the same as those available to annul a civil partnership. Check the Ministry of Justice website or seek legal advice about these. Divorce is available to dissolve a marriage, whereas a civil partnership is made subject to a dissolution order. Both are ended on the basis that they have ‘irretrievably broken down’ on the basis of unreasonable behaviour, 2 years separation with consent, 5 years separation, or desertion. Additionally adultery (with a person of the opposite sex) can be claimed in divorce cases, but it cannot be claimed in an application to dissolve a civil partnership.

Pension entitlement – check the MoJ website as there are small differences to the treatment of men and women who are married to men and women in a civil partnership. Civil partners do not have the same pension rights as married couples. If one civil partner dies, the pension share that the surviving partner receives is often lower and lasts for less time than with married couples.

Finances upon divorce/dissolution – in both instances either party can bring an application through the courts for financial relief, if they have not been able to reach agreement. There is a growing emphasis on these issues being dealt with by agreement so mediation or other dispute resolution methods should be attempted before a court application is issued, as a last resort.

Living abroad – check the rules of the country you are intending to move to as there may well be different rules for married couples and couples in civil partnerships.

Children – provided both of you have parental responsibility for the child or children, you will have similar rights. The courts encourage agreement for any disputes relating to children, and if agreement cannot be reached, consider what is in the child’s best interests.

Child support – this is the same for married couples or those in a civil partnership. If agreement cannot be reached then either is free to contact the Child Maintenance Service.

Inheritance rules – if there is a valid Will that is binding on both, and equally intestacy rules (where there is no Will) are the same for married couples and civil partnership couples.

As ever, if you are unsure of your rights check with the Government websites and/or seek legal advice about these important issues.