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What is a Civil Partnership?

Civil Partnerships vs Marriage

A Civil Partnership is an alternative way of registering a relationship between two people who are not related to one another.  The legal provisions of Civil Partnerships are set out in the Civil Partnership Act 2004. Civil Partnership offers a secular alternative to marriage, although it is possible to have a separate religious ceremony performed after the Civil Partnership is registered. The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 enables Civil Partners to convert their Civil Partnership into a marriage if they wish. 

Following the Supreme Court case brought by Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan in June 2018, a legal ruling was made allowing Civil Partnerships to apply to both same-sex couples and to opposite-sex couples.

The eligibility to marry or form a Civil Partnership is identical for both same and opposite-sex couples. Both people must be over 16 (with parental consent if under 18), they must not already be married or in a Civil Partnership, and must not be closely related.  

Civil Partners cannot, however, refer to themselves as being married. In the same way as a couple wishing to marry, partners must give notice within the local authority where they live 29 days before the formation of the Civil Partnership. Certain religious groups will agree to their premises being used for the registration of Civil Partnerships, but not all, so it is worth checking this before deciding your venue.

A valid opposite-sex marriage formed in the UK will be recognised abroad. However, it is always best to check if your same-sex or opposite-sex Civil Partnership will affect any rights you may have if you move to live overseas.

There are some differences between Civil Partnerships and marriages when it comes to divorce or dissolution. Currently, a divorce or dissolution is obtained by relying on certain facts to prove that Civil Partnership or marriage has broken down irretrievably. 

In the case of marriage, there are five facts, which are adultery where the applicant finds it intolerable to live with the respondent, unreasonable behaviour by the respondent, desertion for 2 years, separation for 2 years with the consent of the respondent and separation for 5 years.

To obtain a dissolution of a Civil Partnership, the facts that can be relied upon are the same as for marriage, except for adultery, which is not available.

Civil Partnerships and Tax

Civil Partners are entitled to the same exemptions as married couples in relation to Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Social Security Benefits and pension benefits. Civil Partners are also recognised equally with married couples in relation to life insurance.  Civil Partners can also be entitled to automatically inherit their partner’s assets, including their pension.

Couples who decide to cohabit, without a legally binding, recognised relationship status, will forego these financial benefits.

What are my rights in the UK?

Civil Partners are entitled to the same property rights as married couples in the UK. On dissolution of the Civil Partnership, they are entitled to the same financial remedy Orders in relation to sale or transfer of properties, pension sharing, and maintenance.

Civil Partners also automatically acquire Parental Responsibility for their children by virtue of their Civil Partnership.  Civil Partners can apply for orders under the Children Act 1989 in relation to the arrangements for the children where there is disagreement on the breakdown of the relationship. Civil Partners can also apply for financial provision for the children under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. These rights are identical to those of married couples.

As can be seen, entering into a Civil Partnership will provide you with benefits, both financial and otherwise, akin to being married.

If you have any questions or would like to obtain advice about your position, the Family Team would be happy to hear from you.

Susie Parsons

Family Executive