Get in touch

Civil partnership and a Marriage – What is the difference?

There is a real importance to distinguish between a civil partnership and a marriage.  Civil partnerships hit the headlines again recently, when a Tory MP reportedly launched a bid to enable heterosexual couples to be able to enter into a civil partnership.

What is a civil partnership?

Civil partnerships were brought about to enable gay couples to enter into something very similar to marriage, before same-sex marriage was approved.

At the moment, only gay couples are able to enter into a civil partnership. However, there have been calls over the years for this to change, including this heterosexual couple who went to court to argue for their right to be able to enter into a civil partnership.

Some have even suggested that civil partnerships could be scrapped altogether in the future. With same-sex marriage now recognised by UK law, it may be that there is no need for civil partnerships at all.


Are there any differences between a civil partnership and a marriage?

Civil partnerships and marriage are very similar from a legal point of view, with those who choose to enter into a civil partnership gaining many of the same rights as a married couple. However, it is important to note that there are some differences.

One of the main differences between a civil partnership and a marriage, is that when a married couples’ relationship comes to a legal end, it is referred to as a divorce, but a civil partnership coming to an end is called a dissolution.

When a married couple want a divorce, they must cite one of five reasons: unreasonable behaviour, adultery, desertion, two years separation (with consent from the other party) and five years separation (without having to obtain consent from the other party).

Adultery cannot be used as a reason to dissolve a civil partnership.

This means that there are only four reasons or ‘grounds’ for dissolving a civil partnership.

There may also be some small legal differences to do with survivor pensions schemes, which your solicitor should be able to go into more detail about with you if necessary.

Civil partnership and a Marriage

Who can enter into a civil partnership?

The same ‘entry requirements’ apply to both marriages and civil partnerships, other than the fact that only same-sex couples can currently enter into a civil partnership.

You can enter into a civil partnership if you are:

  • aged 16 years old or over
  • free to form a civil partnership (either single, divorced, widowed or have been in another civil partnership which has now been dissolved)
  • not closely related to the person you want to enter into a civil partnership with.

Those who are under 18 years old, will also need parental consent.


Can I convert my civil partnership into a marriage?

It is possible to convert a civil partnership into a marriage and receive a marriage certificate which will be dated when you formed your civil partnership.

This can be done either at a register office, a local registration office or a “religious or approved premises where same sex marriages are allowed”. The government website has more information about this.


Civil partnership or a marriage – Do you need help?

Our expert divorce and family law solicitors can help you with a range of legal issues, including:


Contact our expert divorce solicitors for advice on civil partnerships or divorce

For more information call our divorce solicitors on 0845 862 5001 or mail@austinkemp.co.uk.

Our expert divorce and family law solicitors offer a nationwide service. We have client meeting office facilities available, in order to have face-to-face client meetings / conferences as and when required in:

Leeds Office: St Andrew House, The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 5JW

Wakefield Office: Market Walk, Wakefield, WF1 1QR

Halifax Office: Old Lane, Halifax, HX3 5WP

Huddersfield Office: Northumberland Street Huddersfield, HD1 1RL

Coventry Office: Warwick Road, Coventry, CV1 2DY

Canary Wharf Office: 25 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5LB

Please contact us for more details.

Was this article helpful?

06th March 2018

Make the first move

Find out how we can help you, call us on
0845 862 5001 or email us today.

Contact Us
Back to Top