June 27th, 2018
The Supreme Court has today ruled that heterosexual couples should be able to enter into civil partnerships, following a legal challenge Rebecca Steinfeld, 37, and Charles Keidan, 41, from London. The couple, who have two children, met in 2010 and became engaged in 2013. But they said the "legacy of marriage" meant it was not an option for them. The court has said the Civil Partnership Act 2004 - which only applies to same-sex couples - is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights and that it should be open to heterosexual couples too.
In a civil partnership, a couple is entitled to the same legal treatment in terms of inheritance, tax, pensions and next-of-kin arrangements as marriage. They also have the same claims as they would have against one another on divorce. Since March 2014, same sex-couples have been able to chose wither to enter a civil partnership or to marry, but this has not been possible for mixed-sex couples which led Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan to argue that the law was discriminatory.
Whilst a victory for campaigners, the numbers of same sex couples going into civil partnerships has plummeted since marriage was opened up to them in March 2014. It remains to be seen whether this will be an attractive alternative option to heterosexual couples, bearing in mind that it gives couples exactly the same rights, duties and claims as they would have had, if they had married. This is in stark contrast to the position of cohabitees, who remain unprotected in law, without the rights, duties and claims of their married/civil partner counterparts. The concern is that today’s decision will further confuse couples who are not aware of the legal distinction between those who are marrying, going into civil partnerships or just living together. Surely it’s time for the law to recognise the huge numbers of cohabiting people who are not protected by the law whilst they are living together.
Annabel has over fifteen years’ experience in all aspects of family law. She was delighted to join specialist practice Hawkins Family Law in April 2014, and is now a Director, having spent the previous eleven years as a Senior Associate at Taylor Vinters in Cambridge and London.
Annabel is collaboratively trained as a family lawyer, she is a family mediator and is an Accredited Specialist in cases involving substantial assets (including pre-nuptial agreements), and those involving cohabitees (unmarried couples). The Legal 500 comments that the team at Hawkins are “exemplary” and describes Annabel as “striking a good balance between empathising and successfully navigating divorce cases” and “a pragmatic lawyer with a cool head” (The Legal 500 2015).
Hawkins Family Law fields 'a very professional team that delivers a high-class service and has strength-in-depth from senior to junior level'. Managing director and team head Jo Hawkins provides 'clear and accurate advice and moral support through often testing times for her clients; she focuses on deriving the best long-term outcome for her client and other parties'. The practice has particular strength financial matters, including divorce and ToLATA proceedings. Other key figures include Loraine Davenport, who has strong collaborative law expertise and handles complex children cases and high-net-worth ancillary relief matters; Annabel Hayward, who focuses on complex financial provision and co-habitation matters; and Stacey St Clair.
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What the team is known for
Boutique family law firm that punches above its weight in terms of high-value and complex matrimonial finance instructions relating to business assets, pensions and substantial property portfolios, including assisting with the handling of assets abroad. Also represents clients in the negotiation of wealth protection agreements and private law childcare arrangements. Fields a team trained in collaborative law and alternative dispute resolution.
An impressed client says: "The team's personal service and individual care is a great asset,"adding that the lawyers are "always available to assist and understand the occasional need for immediate advice and guidance, providing a very reassuring service."
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