A BRADFORD-based law firm has reported a significant increase in enquiries from couples considering a civil partnership following the law change.

LCF Law says couples have been asking for clarification on what it means.

Since December 31, opposite-sex couples have been able to register a civil partnership in England and Wales after The Civil Partnership (Opposite-sex Couples) Regulations 2019 came into force. The legal change coincided with research from The Office of National Statistics that revealed the number of people aged 16 years and over, who aren’t married but live with a partner, soared to five million in 2018.

Family law expert Rachel Spencer Robb said: “Cohabiting couples are the fastest growing household group in England and Wales, but many of unaware that they forgo the legal rights and benefits that are afforded to married couples.

"Civil Partnerships have been an option for same-sex couples since 2004, but haven’t been available for opposite-sex couples until now. Ultimately, they provide an alternative way for opposite-sex couples to formalise their relationship and be eligible for the same privileges and financial benefits as their married peers. It’s also a way for couples to protect their financial position where there are religious or other objections to marriage.

“However, there are several key differences and we’ve been busy answering questions about these in recent weeks. Crucially, there are no religious connotations in a civil partnership, and it’s performed by a registrar rather than a religious leader, without exchanging vows. Partners are then referred to as ‘civil partners’ rather than husband or wife."

She added: "As with marriage, or indeed any legal contract, going into such a relationship fully prepared is key. If a couple have assets or property that they would like to protect, then they can agree a pre-civil partnership agreement, which is like a pre-nuptial agreement for a marriage.

"It’s also worth remembering that entering into a civil partnership will automatically void any existing wills, so these will need to be redone.”