Civil partnerships

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If you form a civil partnership you are entitled to certain benefits and rights. These are very similar to the benefits and rights offered with a civil marriage.

You would be exempt from paying Inheritance Tax on anything left to you in the will of your partner. Property rights are also gained, meaning that if one partner dies then the ownership of the property will be passed onto the remaining partner.

If your partner has children, you would be granted parental responsibility for them. This means that if the parent of the child dies you will be fully responsible for the child.

Some other rights include:

  • full life insurance recognition
  • next of kin status 
  • each partner may be assessed for child support and maintenance
  • exemption from testifying against each other in court
  • joint benefits from pensions and employment
  • domestic violence protection

Who can enter a civil partnership?

There are some conditions that govern who can become civil partners and they are as follows. Both partners must:

  • be of the same sex
  • be at least 16 years old (18 without consent)
  • not be currently married or in civil partnership
  • not be too closely related
  • have resided in England or Wales for at least seven days

How to enter a civil partnership

You must give notice of your intentions to your local registry office. In order to do this, you must have lived in this area for at least the previous seven days. This must be given by each partner in person, and should be supported with a declaration that there is no legal reason your union should not go ahead. 

Two weeks are then given to allow any objections to the partnership to be raised. If there are no objections, or if the objections are deemed, then you will be issued with a document called a civil partnership schedule. The signing of this document in the presence of two witnesses and a registrar constitutes the beginning of a civil partnership.

Like marriage there is no requirement for either partner to change their surname, but you can choose to do so by either adopting your partner’s name or by forming a double-barrelled surname.

Ending a civil partnership

There are a number of ways that a civil partnership can come to an end, but there are some conditions that need to be fulfilled in order to do so.


Before dissolution can be achieved a year must have passed since your civil partnership was registered. You must also have evidence that the relationship has broken down beyond repair, and this can be proved by fulfilling the conditions for the following facts:

  • unreasonable behaviour
  • desertion
  • 2 or 5 years of separation

These facts are the same as the facts of divorce, with the omission of adultery. This is because adultery is defined as intercourse with another member of the opposite sex, and would therefore not be applicable to same-sex couples. An affair could still be used to prove the irretrievable breakdown of a civil partnership, but it would fall under the fact of unreasonable behaviour as opposed to adultery.


If the civil partnership can be proved ineligible, then then it may be classified as void. This means that it is an illegal partnership and the courts will not recognise it as valid.

A civil partnership cannot be ended by annulment until three years have passed since the partnership was registered.

Separation order

A separation order represents the separation of a civil partnership, however it is not a legal end to the partnership in the same way that dissolution is.

A separation order may be appealing because, unlike dissolution, it can be granted before one year of a partnership has passed. Other reasons for getting a separation may be that you have objections to a full dissolution, or you want some time to fully consider all options before legally ending the partnership.

You must give one of the facts listed earlier as your reason for getting a separation, but it is not necessary to give evidence that the relationship has broken down irretrievably.

Child provisions

Before any end to a civil partnership is granted it must be shown that provisions have been made for any children involved. Their upbringing and welfare are more important in the eyes of the law, than the end of an intimate relationship.

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