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What Is a Civil Partnership?

Written by, Bojana Atanasovska

Updated May, 16, 2022

Since 2005, couples in the UK have been allowed to enter a civil partnership, marking the beginning of a more inclusive era in England and Wales.

But, what is a civil partnership, why was it introduced, and who can benefit from it? 

Let’s find out.

Civil Partnership: Meaning and Reasons

A civil partnership is a legal relationship that can be formed between two people. The relationship is registered and the partners have similar rights to married couples.

 For example, couples in a civil partnership typically enjoy inheritance rights, the ability to make medical decisions for one another, the ability to file joint tax returns, and the right to have their partnership recognized in other countries. It’s also easier to transfer a mortgage in a civil partnership.

Civil partnerships were introduced to provide same-sex couples with legal protections, though the law has since evolved to allow for same-sex marriages. But, this doesn’t mean that straight couples don’t have the same option. 

There are many reasons why people might choose to form a civil partnership over getting married. Some couples object to the religious or patriarchal assassinations of traditional marriages and others have religious or personal beliefs for not repeating the process if they’ve already been married before. 

Who Can Register Civil Partnerships in the UK?

To register for a civil partnership, you and your partner must meet the following criteria:

  • Both partners have to be at least 16 years old. If any of the partners is younger than 18, they’ll need written consent from their parents or legal guardians. 
  • You must have lived in the same area in England or Wales for at least seven days.
  • Neither of you is in an existing marriage or in a civil partnership.
  • You cannot be close blood relatives.

How to Register a UK Civil Partnership?

For a civil partnership to be legally recognized, there are two processes that must be followed.

Giving notice

Both partners have to notify the local register office in person, even if you plan on registering in a different area.

When you give notice, the registration office will request information about the date and location of the civil partnership’s commencement. You’ll also be asked to provide your documentation, such as a passport or birth certificate, a divorce decree absolute, or death certificate of a prior civil partner in the UK.

After you’ve given notice of your intention to establish a civil partnership, the information will be published in a register office.

You can register your partnership after 28 days if no one objects and there are no legal reasons why you can’t proceed. If you fail to register your civil partnership within 12 months, you will have to restart the process.

Registration

You may register your civil partnership in any register office or at any venue that has been authorised to register civil partnerships. 

All venues that register marriages are required by the law to accept civil partnership registrations, except for religious institutions. 

Registering a civil partnership is similar to registering a marriage and has to be done in front of a registrar and two witnesses.

Local authorities can arrange for a ceremony along with the signing of the civil partnership agreement, but they are not required to do so.

The Cost of Registering a Civil Partnership


You must pay a fee for a notice of intention, as well as a registration fee. The cost varies depending on where you want to register your civil partnership.

You’ll also have to pay a fee for a civil partnership certificate.

Marriage vs Civil Partnership in the UK

The difference between civil partnership and marriage is small and mostly procedural.

  • A marriage involves exchanging vows, whereas a civil partnership is created when the couple signs the civil partnership document.
  • Ending a civil partnership requires dissolution while ending a marriage requires submitting legal documentation to ask for a divorce. 

While civil partnerships do not have the same religious and conventional significance as marriages, the legal benefits of civil partnership and responsibilities are almost identical. 

There aren’t many disadvantages of civil partnership, compared to traditional marriage. One important disadvantage is that a registered civil partnership is not recognised everywhere in the world and there are generally less liberal options for receiving pensions and benefits if one of the partners dies.

Bottom Line 

What is a civil partnership? Civil partnerships are a viable, legal alternative for a couple who doesn’t want to enter a traditional marriage union. There are very few differences between marriages and civil unions and although civil partnerships were initially meant for same-sex couples, all couples in the UK are now free to choose between the two.

Bojana is my name and writing is my game. I am a content writer from Bitola who is always interested in the latest research in almost all areas of life. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English literature and a perfectionist character, both of which help me find the most accurate data and information available. Although I have my head stuck in studies and reports most of the time, I still have a bit of free time during which I enjoy knitting and watching classic 90’s Disney movies.