What are the differences between Civil Partnership and Marriage?
Initially in 2005 Civil Partnerships were introduced as a way to provide legal recognition and protection for same sex couples. On 29th March 2014, same sex marriages became legal and many civil partners chose to convert their civil partnership to a marriage. This then gave same-sex couples the option to enter into either civil partnership or marriage, and as of the 31st December 2019 this option was extended to opposite sex couples.
When civil partnerships were introduced many saw them as the next best thing for same sex couples who at the time were not legally allowed to marry; it allowed legal rights and protection in relation to inheritance and tax entitlement and legally recognised the parties as one and others legal next of kin.
Marriage and civil partnerships are not the same thing however. For example within a marriage you exchange vows and often there is a religious element, however during a civil partnership ceremony there is no mention of religion and the vows, if any, are modern compared to the marriage vows.
As previously advised within our guide to applying for Civil Partnership, you are required to wait 28 days before the ceremony, during which a notice will be placed with the registry office of your intentions, once the 28 days have passed, if no objection or legal reasons have been raised as to why you cannot marry, then you are granted “permission” to marry or enter into a civil partnership, however you must do so within 12 months otherwise you have to give notice once again. Notice of both marriages and civil partnerships will include both parties full name, genders, occupation, length of residence and place of marriage or civil partnership.
You are not permitted to refer to yourself as “married” if you are civil partners, regardless of whether you are a same sex or opposite sex couple.
Similarly both civil partnerships and marriages require both parties to be over the age of 18, not currently married/in a civil partnership, and not closely related before the marry or enter into a civil partnership. It is possible for 16/17 to marry or enter in a civil partnership; however parental permission will be required.
For a marriage to become legal you are required to repeat spoken vows in order to solemnise the marriage before signing the marriage register, however with a civil partnership, you do not need to speak any vows, merely sign the civil partnership documents, however many couples chose to have a separate ceremony in which they recite their own vows. A marriage can either be a religious or civil ceremony; however a civil partnership can only be a civil ceremony.
Within both a marriage and civil partnership a certificate will be issued to prove the union. The full names and ages of the parties and date and place of the union will be included on both certificate, however whilst on the marriage certificate only the parties’ fathers; or step fathers’ name appears, unlike on a civil partnership certificate in which the parties’ mothers’ or step mother’s name appears also.
Should there be a breakdown in the relationship and the parties wish to terminate the union then the process is relatively the same for both; however the terminology used is different. For example when a marriage is officially ended you are granted a Decree Absolute whereas upon the legal ending of a civil partnership you are grated a Dissolution Order.
We would note that you can choose to end your marriage or civil partnership due to either unreasonable behaviour, 2 years separation with consent, 5 years separation or dissertation. However currently you are unable to end a marriage due to same sex adultery. You are unable to end a civil partnership on the terms of adultery.
There are more similarities between a Civil Partnership and Marriage than there are differences, in relation to their rights, married couples and couples in civil partnership share the same rights when it comes to property, pensions and their ability to obtain parental responsibility over their spouse’s child. As with married couples, couples in a civil partnership’s have the same rights as next of kins in hospital and are exempt from inheritance tax.
Although same sex couples now have the right to marry 2017 saw a 2% increase of couples choosing to have a civil partnership over a marriage. Now that the option is available to opposite couples it is believed that this will only increase more as couples opt for a more modern option than marriage.