Civil partnership

A civil partnership is a legal relationship under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 between two people that are not related to each other. It was originally only intended for same-sex couples and were seen as an interim measure before same sex marriage was introduced to give the couple legal recognition leading to rights and responsibilities. However, many opposite-sex couples also wanted the right to enter into a civil partnership and from 31st December 2019 they have been allowed to do this. This is very important for couples who do not wish to marry but realise that their rights as cohabitees are far more limited than those of a married couple. Essentially, a civil partnership grants similar rights to those that are married. It is also possible to dissolve a civil partnership. This can be a complicated area of law and you should make sure you take proper legal advice to ensure that you understand the whole process and the impact that it will have on you and your rights.

How do you get a Civil Partnership?

The process is similar to that for a marriage. The couple needs to give notice at their local register office and pay the relevant fee. After 28 days have passed, if there are no objections then the couple are provided with a legal document called a Civil Partnership Schedule, which they can use to register the civil partnership. This must be done within 12 months and if this period lapses then the whole process has to be done again.

Registration of the civil partnerships can be done in any register office or any venue approved for such a purpose. The civil partnership is deemed to have been legally registered when both parties sign the Civil Partnership Schedule on front of a registrar and two witnesses. It is not necessary to have a ceremony, though you are able to do so if you would like one. During the legal signing of the schedule it is not permitted to have any religious ceremony.

What rights do you get from a Civil Partnership?

Where one dies then the surviving party will have the same inheritance rules applying to them- this means that they will inherit their spouse’s estate even without a Will and they are also exempt from paying inheritance tax. Where the deceased was younger than state pension age then the surviving spouse is also eligible for Bereavement Support Payment.

If you enter into a civil partnership after the birth of your children then you will need to re-register their birth so they are recorded as being a child of marriage. If there are children in the relationship that are from a previous relationship then the parent that is not the birth parent will become the step-parent. You will not automatically gain parental responsibility (unlike in marriage where it is automatic) and you will need to apply for this. A step-child is not automatically eligible to inherit from their step-parent. They would either need to provide for them in their Will or formally adopt them.

Ending a Civil Partnership?

It is possible to legally end a civil partnership with a dissolution order. This cannot be done before the first anniversary of the civil partnership. You must bear in mind that if a civil partnership ends and you are not a British citizen then this can affect your rights to remain the UK.

To be issued with a dissolution order it needs to be shown to the Court that your partnership has “irretrievably” broken down. Unlike the grounds to end a marriage, it is not possible to purely base this on the grounds of adultery. To be granted a dissolution you need to prove at least one of these:

  • Unreasonable behaviour by your partner. This can be anything that makes the partner feel that living together is no longer possible. Examples are domestic violence and commission of offences.
  • Separation for at least two years (living separately) and both parties agree to the dissolution. It may be possible to continue living in the same household and still qualify under this if you can show that you were not living as a couple (sleeping, eating, cooking and cleaning were all done separately). If the couple reconcile for up to six months this does not prevent separation under this ground but that time will not count towards the two years.
  • Separation for at least five years (living separately). You do not need consent to the dissolution from the partner.
  • Desertion at least two years ago. You would need to prove that your partner left you and there has been no relationship and that you didn’t want it to end. This can be harder to prove than the other options. Again, it is possible to reconcile for up to six months but this will not count towards the total two-year period.

If the civil partnership has lasted for less than one year then it is possible to get a separation order to detail financial issues.

Can you convert a Civil Partnership into a marriage?

This is possible for same-sex marriages. The options to convert are via an administrative conversion where you attend an appointment at a local register office and a legal declaration is drawn up for both parties to sign. You then receive a marriage certificate post-dated to the start date of the civil partnership. Or you can follow this with a ceremony, which friends and family can attend. At present it is not possible to do this for opposite-sex marriages since they have only just been permitted but it is expected that eventually this will also be possible. There are also discussions about allowing couples of the opposite-sex that had to marry to gain the relevant rights the option to convert to a civil partnership now that these are permissible.

Contact our Civil Partnership Lawyers Today

Call us on 01274 350 546 or fill out our online enquiry form.

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