Civil Partnerships

What is a Civil Partnership

A civil partnership is a relationship between two people of the same sex that is equivalent to the rights and status of marriage. The aim of a civil partnership is to ensure that gay and lesbian couples can obtain legal recognition for their relationship.

Formation of a civil partnership

A civil partnership is formed in any of the following ways:

  • When the couple register as civil partners in the United Kingdom
  • When the couple register as civil partners outside of the United Kingdom through British Consulates or Armed Forces Personnel
  • When the couple register an overseas relationship which is treated as a civil partnership


A couple can register as civil partners if they sign the civil partnership document. A civil partnership document is either a Registrar General’s licence or a civil partnership schedule. This must be done in the presence or at the invitation of a civil partnership registrar and in the presence of each other and two witnesses. The two witnesses and the civil partnership registrar must also sign the register.

Notice requirement

Registration is subject to the couple each giving notice of the proposed civil partnership. The couple must have resided in England and Wales for at least 7 days before giving the notice. The couple must also confirm that they do not know of any impediments to the formation of the civil partnership. They must then wait for fifteen days (notice period) before signing the register. 

Prohibition on Religious Services

Religious services are prohibited from being used while a civil partnership registrar is officiating at the signing of a civil partnership document. If a couple is desirous of having a ceremony they should ascertain form the relevant registration authority whether a ceremony is possible on the day.


A couple is eligible to register as civil partners if they satisfy the following:

  • They are of the same sex
  • Either of them is not already a civil partner or lawfully married
  • They are over 16 years of age
  • They fall outside the prohibited degree of relationship

Prohibited Degree of Relationship

Prohibited degree of relationship includes the following:

  • Adoptive child

  • Adoptive parent

  • Child

  • Grand parent

  • Grand child

  • Parent

  • Sibling  include brother, sister, half-brother, half sister

  • Parent’s sibling

  • Sibling’s child

  • Sibling include brother, sister, half-brother, half sister 

Prospective civil partnership where couple under 18

In order for a person under 18 to be able to form a civil partnership it is necessary for the appropriate person to give consent to the civil partnership. However no consent is necessary if the child is a surviving civil partner.

Appropriate Persons

Appropriate persons include the following:

  • Any parent of the child who has parental responsibility for him,

  • Any guardian of the child.

  • Each of the child’s special guardians.

  • Local authority designated in a care order

  • Persons with who the child lives with as a result of a residence order

  • Rights and Responsibilities of a Civil Partnership

A civil partnership has similar rights and responsibilities to that of a marriage. They include the following:

  • Pension and employment benefits

  • Compensation flowing from fatal accidents

  • Immigration and nationality entitlements

  • Recognition under inheritance laws

  • Child support

  • Spousal support

  • Rights to succession of tenancy

  • Recognition as next of kin for hospital visits

  • Tax including inheritance tax obligations

  • Right not to testify against each other in criminal proceedings (similar to married couple)

Ending a Civil Partnership

A civil partnership may only be terminated as a result of one of the following:

  • Death

  • Annulment

  • Dissolution

A court may make an order for the dissolution of a civil partnership on the ground that it has irretrievably broken down, make an order that a civil partnership is void or voidable or make an order which dissolves a civil partnership on the ground that one of the parties is presumed to be dead. The court can also make an order for the separation of the civil partners.


No dissolution order can be made during the first year of the civil partnership. The court will consider a request for dissolution based on the following four factors:

  • Unreasonable behaviour of one of the civil partners

  • Separation of the civil partners for a period of two years, with consent by both parties to the dissolution of the partnership

  • Separation of the civil partners for a period of five years

  • Desertion by the one of the civil partners for a minimum of two years