Civil Partnerships FAQ

What is the difference between a civil partnership and a marriage?

There are different statutes which relate to marriage and civil partnerships. For marriage, the Marriage Act 1949, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 or the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 are the relevant statutes. With Civil Partnerships the statutes are the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and the Civil Partnership (Opposite Sex Couples) Regulations 2019.

An important change to note is that the 2019 Regulations mean that opposite sex couple can now enter into a civil partnership.

Some The basic legal requirements legally are the same for both marriage and civil partnership: in terms of age, the parties must be over 16 (with parental consent if under 18), they cannot be currently married or in a civil partnership and must not be close relatives.

As regards formalities such as the giving of notice, there are no material differences between marriage and civil partnerships.

When can I apply to end a civil partnership?

For civil partnerships in England & Wales there is a 1 year time period before an application to dissolve can be made.

Is it possible to annul a civil partnership?

Yes and the reasons for annulment are very similar to those for marriage.

Are there differences in procedure between divorce and dissolution?

To end either a marriage or a civil partnership, the legal ground is the same, being irretrievable breakdown. With both divorce and civil partnerships the ground need to be justified with 1 of the available facts, such as unreasonable behaviour.

The only difference is that with divorce, there is the additional fact of adultery which can be relied on as the evidence of irretrievable breakdown.

Overseas recognition differences between marriage and civil partnerships

Generally speaking marriages which comply with English law are recognised in most other legal jurisdictions.

Whilst in a lot of countries civil partnerships under English law are given legal status, there are still many countries that currently don’t recognise the legal validity of civil partnerships.

Consequently, if you are in a civil partnership and have assets abroad or are perhaps splitting up with a party having moved or possibly moving abroad or are concerned about your rights in any way, you should get legal advice. We’d be happy to assist.

What legal rights do civil partners have?

Civil partnerships create the same legal rights as marriages. These rights include those in relation to property and assets, tax treatment such as couples allowances and the same rights which apply in terms of inheritance tax.

Civil partners can also apply for parental responsibility for a partner’s child or children.

Are civil partnerships for straight couples legal?

Yes, as a result of the Civil Partnership (Opposite Sex Couples) Regulations 2019 civil partnerships can apply to opposite sex couples.

How can a civil partnership be dissolved?

The process is very similar to divorce.

1. An application is made to the family court based on the single ground of irretrievable breakdown. There are 4 facts to prove irretrievable breakdown, 1 of which must be successfully proven:
a. Due to the respondent’s unreasonable behaviour;
b. 2 years separation with the respondent’s consent;
c. 5 years separation; or
d. Desertion.

2. The respondent must then acknowledge service of the Application or if he or she doesn’t, service is likely to be deemed to have taken place. The applicant can then proceed to apply for a Conditional Dissolution Order.

3. After waiting for a minimum period of 6 weeks from the Conditional Dissolution Order the applicant can apply to the Court for the Order to be Final, which is the actual point at which the civil partnership is legally dissolved.

4. As with divorce proceedings, there is an emphasis and to an extent expectation on the part of the Courts that with regards the financial aspects of dissolution of a civil partnership, the parties should seek to mediate or negotiate a financial settlement and to only have the court decide if this fails. It is possible, as with divorce, to agree financial aspects of dissolution by consent and to record this in a formal consent order filed at court.

Can I separate from my civil partner without getting a dissolution?

Yes. As with divorce you can apply to the court for a legal separation. After getting a separation order, you can later apply for a dissolution.

We always recommend a formal separation agreement and can assist with what to consider, and what should be included; we are experienced in drafting such agreements.

What happens with children where civil partners are separated or choose to dissolve the civil partnership?

Dissolution of Civil Partnership applications do not include issues relating to children.

If there are children and an agreement cannot be reached either party can apply for a Child Arrangements Order for the Court to decide the children’s best interests such as where they will live, who they will spend time with or have contact with. The same law applies as with heterosexual couples and is governed by the Children Act 1989.