What are your rights when you enter into a Civil Partnership?
A Civil Partnership is the term used when a couple wishes to legalise their relationship, but not marry.
However, much like with marriage, there are few qualifying things you need before you enter into a Civil Partnership:-
Neither yourself nor your partner can be legally married or in a Civil Partnership when you sign your documentation to enter into the Civil Partnership. If either party has previously been married or in a Civil Partnership then they will need to prove that Decree Absolute or Conditional Order has been granted by the Family Court before the ceremony can take place.
Once seen as an equivalent of marriage for same-sex couples, as of June 2018 Civil Partnerships are now available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples alike.
As Civil Partnerships are a “contract” then you are unable to enter into one unless you are 18 years of age or over.
For those aged 16-17 wishing to enter into a civil partnership, written permission must be obtained from the person who has parental responsibility for you. If you are unable to obtain permission from your parents or legal guardian, then you are able to make an application to the Court for their permission. You will need to attend with a family law solicitor for assistance with this.
You cannot enter into a Civil Partnership with anyone you are a close blood relative with.
In order to legally register the civil partnership, you are required to give notice of your intentions to your local registry office. You must do this in person by attending your local registry office, regardless of where you intend your ceremony to take place. You will be asked to prove your identity by way of birth or adoption certificate, and photo ID.
Once you have registered your intention your notice will be a made available for people to see at the registry office, your notice must be available for 28 days prior to the date of the ceremony. This time scale is to allow objection from other parties to be made, should there be any.
If after 28 days there have been no objections and there are no legal reasons as to why the union cannot take place, then you will be issued with a document called a civil partnership schedule. You are then required to wait at least 15 days before you can sign the civil partnership schedule.
You must sign the schedule within one year of your notice to the registry office. Should you fail to do so then the schedule will be void and you will be required to restart the process again.
The 28 days’ notice period can be waived in special circumstances such as terminal illness, you will need to speak to the registry office about this who can then issue you with a special licence.
Once you have been given you schedule you are then free to a hold a ceremony in any venue that has been preapproved to registrar civil partnership. A list of venues can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/civil-marriages-and-partnerships-approved-premises-list.
As with marriages, you are required to sign in the presence of the registrar and two witnesses who are over the age of 18.
You are not legally required to have a ceremony should you chose not to. There is however no religious ceremony allowed when you are signing your schedule.
Whilst many believe that entering into a Civil Partnership gives you the same rights as married couples, this is sadly not the case. Whilst you may have similar rights, such as legally being recognised as one and other next of kin and you are automatic beneficiary should your spouse die without a Will in place.
Whilst you may become a step-parent upon a civil partnership, you are not automatically given parental responsibility of the other party’s children upon the union. You will need to make an application for the Family Court for this.
We would advise that you attend with a Family Law Solicitors before your civil partnership in order to understand your rights.
As Family Solicitors we would advise that parties entering into Civil Partnership attend with a family law advisor for pre-registration agreements.
A pre-registration agreement can set out your rights and obligations towards each other and, in particular, what should happen if your relationship breaks down.
Your agreement can include child arrangements, financial matters and issues relating to the family home and any pensions. Each party is advised to get independent legal advice when you make an agreement. Whilst a pre-registration agreement is not legally binding it can influence the courts if they get involved should your civil partnership breaks down.