A Shropshire-based family lawyer has welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement that mixed-sex couples in England and Wales will be allowed to enter into civil partnerships instead of getting married.

Sandy Edwards, from Aaron & Partners LLP in Shrewsbury, responded after the news was announced by Theresa May at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham this week.

The change to the law will mean that opposite-sex couples will have the same choices as same-sex couples when it comes to formalising their relationship – the option to choose between a civil partnership or a marriage.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favour of Rebecca Steinfeld & Charles Keidan after their three-and-a-half-year legal campaign challenged legislation preventing opposite-sex couples from entering into a civil partnership.

The landmark case ruled that the current Civil Partnership Act 2004 was found to be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights as it applies only to same-sex couples and therefore amounted to discrimination.

Sandy said: “This change will offer greater security for unmarried couples in England and Wales and we welcome the move as a logical one which addresses an imbalance in the law given the change to same-sex relationships in recent years.

“With an estimated 3.3 million couples in the UK cohabiting – and nearly half of them with children – many heterosexual couples have little legal protection in the event of separation.

“There’s also a common misconception that if a couple have been together for many years that the woman becomes a “common law wife” – in reality there is no such thing.

“A change in the law will give them the option to consider a civil partnership and this may be a lot more appealing for those couples who currently cohabit and don’t want to partake in a traditional marriage. It also means couples can protect themselves legally as well as financially and mitigate some of the potential issues that come as a result of a separation.

“It’s currently unclear when the change will come into force, so the time to celebrate will be when the legislation has passed, and a date has been set for the first opposite-sex civil partnership.”

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