Georgina Earle-Hutton, Partner and Collaborative Lawyer within our Family and Child division explains the history of Civil Partnerships. She also answers some frequently asked questions on what they are and how you can enter into one. 

1. Can a same sex couple enter a Civil Partnership?

Yes, but that was not always the case. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 permitted same-sex couples to legalise their relationship by registering a Civil Partnership. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (MSSCA) granted upon same-sex couples the right to marry. The introduction of this Act created a discriminatory anomaly in that same-sex couples had greater rights than heterosexual couples. 

Two attempts were made to introduce a Private Members Bill to rectify this anomaly in 2016, both of which were unsuccessful. However, the case of Stienfeld and Keidan evoked the wheel of change by seeking Judicial Review proceedings of the Government's failure to extend Civil Partnerships to different sex couples. 

They argued that the introduction of the MSSCA rendered the provisions of the Civil Partnership Act which confined Civil Partnership to same-sex couples incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) when read in conjunction with Article 14. When appealed to the Supreme Court (the highest Court in England and Wales) the five judges presiding over the case found in their favour.

The Government responded by introducing the new Civil Partnership (Opposite Sex Couples Regulation 2019) which amended the then Civil Partnership Act 2004 allowing heterosexual couples to form a Civil Partnership. 

2. What is the difference between a Civil Partnership and Marriage?

Civil Partnership Marriage
Bound to provisions set out in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 + Civil Partnership (Opposite Sex Couples) Regulations 2019. Bound to provisions set out in the Marriage act 1949 + Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
Registered by signing a document whereby no words are exchanged. Exchanging vows formalises ceremony.
A civil event whereby there is no religious ceremony needed.  Religious or Civil ceremony can be followed.
No giving away of a Bride. Bride is traditionally given away by Father.
Both parents names are on the Civil Partnership Certificate. Parties Father's names only on the Marriage certificate. 
Parties referred to as Civil Partners. Parties referred to as Husband and Wife. 

3. What does it mean to be in a civil partnership?

A Civil Partnership is a recognised relationship between either same-sex or heterosexual couples that is legally registered. It gives the couples the legal rights and responsibilities of that of a married couple should the relationship break down. 

4. When can straight couples have a Civil Partnership?

Heterosexual couples can enter a Civil Partnership at any stage providing they are over the age of 16. If you are under the age of 18 then Parental/Guardian consent is required. 

5. How to enter into a Civil Partnership?

i. You will need to give notice of your intention to form a Civil Partnership at least 29 days before your ceremony, you need to pay the fee which is currently £35 per person. The fee is £47 per person if either party is:

   a) from outside the EU, European Economic Area or Switzerland and
   b) you need to obtain a Visa to live in the UK; and
   c) you do not have a Civil Partnership or family Visa.

ii. Notice must be given to your local Registry Office.

iii. You must have lived in the Registration district for the past 7 days. You and your partner will need to give notice separately if you live in different Registration districts. Notice does not need to be given on the same day. 

6. What documents are needed to give notice?

  •  Details of the final venue for the ceremony.
  •  Valid Passport, UK Birth Certificate, or if you were born after 1 January 2983 a National Identity Card.
  • Proof of your home address. 
  • If you have been married or previously been in a Civil Partnership before, you will need your original Decree Absolute, Final Order or your former partner's Death Certificate.
  • Proof of any name change.

7. What if we're from outside of the EU?

Additional requirements will apply if either your partner or yourself are from outside the EU, European Economic Area or from Switzerland. You will need to give notice together at a designated Register Office even if you live in a different area. You may need to wait up to 70 days before forming a Civil Partnership.

Georgina Earle-Hutton
Georgina Earle-Hutton
Partner & Collaborative Lawyer - Family & Child Law

Please contact Georgina Earle-Hutton at our Bexleyheath Office on 020 3551 8500 or click here to read more about the services we offer.

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