Civil Partnerships

holding handsOn the 18 November 2004 the Civil Partnership Act Law was passed and came into force on December 5th 2005.  Civil partnerships are a legal union between two people of the same sex and give the partnered couples all the key elements that come with marriage.

As it stands today, common law marriages have no legal force if the partnership breaks down and things can get very messy with regards to legal rights, even if the couple have spent many years together.

Legal Rights between Civil Partnerships

With the Civil Partnership Act important financial matters such as inheritance, pensions, provision, life assurance and maintenance where children are involved are accorded by law.  Dealings with hospitals, immigration, nationality rules and next of kin are also extended to civil partners.

Civil partners will have duties in every way the same as married couples: If children are in the family, they will need to be looked after and the second partner is able to seek parental responsibility similar to step-father/mother arrangements in heterosexual families.

Once you are registered and papers have been signed, the civil partnership can only end if one of you dies or if you apply to the courts to legally bring the partnership to an end.  You can not apply for a civil partnership to an end until it has lasted for at least one year.

Differences between Civil Partnerships and Marriages Ceremonies

town hallThere is not a great deal of difference between a civil partnership and a marriage except in the way each in contracted. Civil partnership is formed when the second civil partner signs the relevant documents, a civil marriage is formed when the couple exchange spoken words.

One similarity between civil partnership and marriage is couples may not register if they are under 16 (or 18 without parental consent), or if they are within one of the prohibited degrees of relationship for marriage, or if they already have a civil partnership or are married.

Civil partnership ceremonies can be held in local registration offices and conducted by a registrar.  They can be held at a venue of your choice if the registrar is willing to attend.  Same sex couples will be asked to identify themselves and sign papers in the presence of the registrar and two witnesses. The procedure has no religious aspects.  Same-sex couples wishing to take part in civil partnerships need to give notice at a registry office, of their intention to register for a civil partnership, 15 days before they are allowed to sign the civil partnership register.  There is no prohibition on different faith groups offering a service of blessing following a civil partnership, just as for a civil marriage.

A marriage can be conducted almost anywhere without any civil preliminaries being required.  In a church it is an officially recognized religion in front of a priest/minister and whatever is said or happens during the ceremony depends on the religion of the specific church. The bride and groom will sign papers after the ceremony.

Previous Rights before Civil Partnerships

Before the civil partnership came into fruition, gay couples who lived together had the same legal rights as any heterosexual couples not married, which was really nothing.  If a relationship broke down or one partner died, there was no automatic right to claim a share of the home they lived in together if the deeds were held in the others' name.

Next-of-kin rights were not recognised and financial support could not be claimed no matter how long they had lived together.

A partner would have to pay inheritance tax on any home that was jointly owned and no claims could be made against pensions.

They are not given automatic parent rights over children and would be unable to decide on medical treatment or schools.

Civil Partnerships Legal Rights

In a nutshell, the legal rights of a civil partnership are now:

  • Joint treatment for income-related benefits
  • Joint state pension benefits
  • Ability to gain parental responsibility for each other’s children
  • Recognition for immigration purposes
  • Exemption from testifying against each other in court
  • Fair arrangements for property division
  • Residence arrangements
  • Appropriate contact with children
  • Right to register the death of a partner
  • Right to claim a survivor pension
  • Eligibility for bereavement benefits

Registering a Civil Partnership in England, Wales and Scotland

two ringsThe Civil Partnership Act 2004 applies throughout the UK but the differences are:

You can register a civil partnership in England and Wales as long as you have both lived in a registration authority for at least seven days immediately before giving notice of your intention to register the partnership. 

As long as one person is resident in England and Wales, then the other person may also give notice in Scotland of their intention to register a civil partnership in England and Wales, providing neither party is subject to immigration control.

You must be of the same sex, over 18 (or provide evidence of consent if over 16), not in an existing marriage or civil partnership, not related to each other within the prohibited degrees of relationship in order to enter into a civil partnership 

Once you have given notice, you must wait a further 15 clear days before the civil partnership can take place.

Officers, ratings or marines on board one of Her Majesty’s ships at sea can give notice to the captain or other commanding officer provided the person with whom they intend to register a civil partnership is resident in England and Wales.

In Scotland both persons should be at least 16 years of age on the day they wish to register their civil partnership. Notice must be given in the three-month period prior to the date of the intended Civil Partnership registration and not later than 15 clear days before that date.

When you both attend the Registration Office to give notice, you will need to produce certain documents to establish age, identity and freedom to contract a civil partnership as well as a fee of £30 each (which is non refundable - correct as of Jan 08). Other documents may also be needed depending on the circumstances. Please note that where documents are required these must be originals. Photocopies are not acceptable.

Bookings can now be taken for Civil Partnership Registration up to one calendar year ahead with the exception of the Registrar's Room at 22 Park Circus. Glasgow.