Civil Partnerships

Civil partnerships were introduced in 2004, allowing same sex couples to enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as married couples. However, despite the legalisation of same sex marriages, the Civil Partnership Act was not repealed. It was therefore open for same sex couples to choose between entering either a civil partnership or a marriage. Following campaigning for equality, a Bill was passed in 2019 to allow opposite sex couples to enter into a civil partnership which now also gives them the ability to choose between marriage or civil partnership.

It is however important to note the change to legislation will not automatically offer protection to cohabiting couples who choose not to formally apply for a civil partnership.

With approximately 63,000 couples in Civil Partnerships in the UK and more than 3 million cohabiting couples, the extension of civil partnerships could have an impact on these numbers, as cohabiting couples may be more inclined to enter into a civil partnership as opposed to a marriage.

The differences between marriage and civil partnership are minimal since there is an equal legal treatment in matters including inheritance, tax, pensions and financial claims upon dissolution/divorce. One of the main differences is that adultery cannot be used as evidence to apply for the dissolution of the Civil Partnership or divorce in the same sex Civil Partnership/marriage.

If a civil partnership breaks down, then we can assist in acting for you in the dissolution of the arrangement. The process is almost the same as a divorce, with one or two slight differences.

From an international perspective, it is important to consider whether Civil Partnerships will be recognised in a foreign country. The legal status of an English Civil Partnership is not always recognised in other countries. In such jurisdictions, Civil Partners under UK law are likely to be treated as cohabitants.

The Civil Partnerships Act contemplates the recognition of foreign civil partnerships of several countries, and most of these give reciprocal recognition to some rights. However, rights which apply to the dissolution of a civil partnership under UK law may not fully apply elsewhere. In such instances, if the couple entered into a civil partnership in the UK it would be advisable, if possible, to apply for a dissolution of the partnership here too.

Applying for a civil partnership allows couples to protect their assets and formalise their relationship without the need for a church or registry office ceremony. If you’re unsure about your rights as a couple, whether you’re married, in a same-sex civil partnership, or cohabiting, our Family team can advise you on your status.