Planning a civil partnership

From the paperwork to the big day, here's our guide to registering, and ending, a civil partnership.

2 brides (like the ones usually on top of a cake) next to colours representing gay pride

Know the laws before you start planning your civil partnership.

The basics: what are civil partnerships?

A civil partnership is a legal relationship for same-sex couples in the UK. It gives such couples comparable rights to those who are heterosexual and married. Bear in mind that civil partnerships are similar, but not the same as marriage. There are a small number of differences between the two:

A civil partnership is registered when the second civil partner signs the relevant document, while a civil marriage is registered when the couple exchange spoken words;

Marriage ceremonies for opposite-sex couples can be either religious or civil, whereas a civil partnership can only be created by a civil ceremony.

In the eyes of the law

Civil partners can enjoy equal treatment with married couples in a wide range oflegal matters, including:

  • Tax, including inheritance tax;
  • Employment benefits;
  • Most state and occupational pension benefits;
  • Income-related benefits, tax credits and child support;
  • Duty to provide reasonable maintenance for your civil partner and any children of the family;
  • Ability to apply for parental responsibility for your civil partners child;
  • Inheritance of a tenancy agreement;
  • Recognition under intestacy rules;
  • Access to fatal accidents compensation;
  • Protection from domestic violence;
  • Recognition for immigration and nationality purposes.

The minimum legal age for registering a civil partnership is 16, but written consent may be required for anyone under 18.

How does a civil partnership come to an end?

A civil partnership will come to an end if you or your civil partner dies. However, if you want to end your civil partnership before then, you need to get permission from a court. You can do this by asking the court to grant one of the following:

  • A dissolution order
    You must prove to the court that the civil partnership has ‘irretrievably’ broken down, e.g. your partner has deserted you at least two years ago. Your civil partnership must have lasted for at least one year before you can apply for a dissolution order.
  • A separation order
    You can apply for a separation order at any time. However, neither of you will be able to enter another civil partnership or marriage unless you obtain a dissolution order.
  • An annulment
    If your civil partnership does not meet certain legal conditions of a civil partnership, the court can end the partnership by granting an annulment.

Other things to bear in mind:

Thanks to Citizens Advice Bureau for help with this article.

Photo of miniature brides by Shutterstock.

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By Matt Whyman

Updated on 29-Sep-2015