Civil Partnership

Civil Partnership and Same Sex Marriage

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 (‘the CPA 2004’) came into force on 5th December 2005.  Following a Supreme Court ruling in 2018 this legislation was amended and the Civil Partnership (Opposite sex Couples) Regulations 2019 enabled opposite sex couples to form a Civil Partnership.  This amendment came into force on 31st December 2019.

The CPA 2004 enables same and opposite sex couples to form legally recognised civil partnerships.  Civil partners assume many legal rights and responsibilities for each other.  Many of these rights and responsibilities are the same as those enjoyed by married couples.

The CPA 2004 makes amendments to other statutes including the Children Act 1989, the Adoption and Children Act 2002 enable a civil partner to acquire parental responsibility and to ensure that the definition of a “child of the family” includes civil partners.  A civil partner is also entitled to apply for a Child Arrangements Order.

The CPA 2004 allows for civil partners to apply for Non-Molestation Orders and Occupation Orders and civil partners can claim discrimination on the grounds of their civil partnership.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 makes the marriage of same sex couples lawful.  Therefore, as a result of the 2019 amendment to the CPA 2004 we now have a legal regime that allows both same sex marriage and same sex civil partnerships so there is greater choice for couples to decide on the tradition of marriage or the more modern civil partnership approach. Civil partnerships can be converted into a marriage (currently still only same sex ones) through a declaration before a Superintendent Registrar.  No formal ceremony is required.  Marriages cannot be converted to civil partnerships.

Civil partners have the same legal status as married couples in relation to, for example, tax inheritance and financial provision on relationship breakdown.   However, married couples cannot call themselves civil partners and civil partners cannot call themselves married couples.

The civil partnership is formed on signing the register rather than the exchange of vows.  The requirements to form a valid civil partnership are the same to marriages.

For the dissolution of a same sex marriage, adultery is only relevant if it is sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex outside of marriage.  Adultery is not a ground for the dissolution of same or opposite sex civil partnerships.  For more helpful information on the comparison between marriages and civil partnerships please go to The Government Equalities Office website where you will find a table outlining these.