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Civil Partnerships & Dissolution

Civil partnerships are sometimes used as an alternative to marriage, by both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

But what are the benefits of civil partnerships and how do they differ from marriage?

In this section, you’ll find the answer to these questions and much more to help you understand what a civil partnership is and whether or not it is suitable for you.

Information on getting a civil partnership in England & Wales.

Civil partnerships were originally introduced in England and Wales in 2004 under the Civil Partnership Act. This provided same-sex couples with the same legal rights offered to opposite-sex couples through marriage.

In the eyes of the law, civil partnership is virtually identical to marriage; the same legal rules and tax implications are shared by both forms of union. Just like a marriage, a civil partnership officially recognises a relationship between two individuals.

The main difference is that a civil partnership is devoid of any religious ceremony and terminology – and this makes it a more attractive option for atheist or agnostic couples.

What legal rights does civil partnership give you?

The legal rights conferred by civil partnership are exactly the same as those provided by marriage, eg:

  • Joint ownership of assets – with a fair division upon dissolution of civil partnership
  • Inheritance of a portion of the estate in the event of death without a will – with an exemption from inheritance tax
  • Tax benefits (eg Married Couple’s Allowance and transfer of assets tax-free)
  • Parental responsibility (if they were civil partners at the time of fertility treatment)
  • Entitlement to certain pension benefits

More broadly, the law recognises the relationship of a couple who are in a civil partnership in exactly the same way as if they were married.

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    Who can enter into a civil partnership – what are the requirements?

    In England and Wales, the rules for entering into a civil partnership are the same as the requirements to get married:

    • Both individuals must be at least 16 years old (if either is under 18 they need permission from their parent or guardian)
    • Neither party should be in another civil partnership (or marriage)
    • The couple must not be closely related

    In Scotland, the rules are the same, apart from the lack of a requirement to ask a parent or guardian for permission in the case either party is under 18.

    What are the benefits of entering into a civil partnership?

    Couples who are not religious will often choose to enter into a civil partnership in order to take advantage of the various legal rights which are conferred by marriage, without the religious trappings.

    In particular, many cohabiting couples want access to the tax benefits enjoyed by married couples.

    Some couples will decide to obtain a cohabitation agreement instead of entering civil partnerships.

    This sets out what will happen to the couple’s finances and assets such as the family home, in the event of a breakup. But there is a lot more protection for both parties if they enter into civil partnership.

    What is the difference between a civil partnership and marriage?

    The only substantial difference between civil partnership and marriage is the religious and/or traditional nature of the marriage ceremony.

    A civil partnership is formed by signing a document (the civil partnership schedule) as opposed to exchanging vows in the case of marriage.

    Furthermore, the names of both parents of each party entering into a civil partnership must be included in the document, as opposed to marriage where only the fathers’ names are entered. Although marriage can be performed as a civil ceremony, a civil partnership must be performed as a civil ceremony.

    What Is The Difference Between Civil Partnerships & Marriage?

    How do you legally end a civil partnership?

    The process of ending a civil partnership is known as ‘dissolving’ a civil partnership. The steps for dissolution are almost exactly the same as for divorce.

    The civil partnership must have irretrievably broken down and a reason must be given (eg unreasonable behaviour or separation for at least 2 years etc) – but, unlike divorce, adultery cannot be given as a reason.

    A civil partnership dissolution application (equivalent to a matrimonial order in divorce) must be submitted, along with a court fee (currently £550).

    Assuming the application is not contested, the court will then grant a conditional order (equivalent to the decree nisi in divorce). This will be followed up with a final order (equivalent to the decree absolute in divorce) that officially dissolves the civil partnership.

    Just as with divorce, it is recommended that a financial agreement is reached between the parties, along with a consent order or clean break order, to ensure that the agreement is binding and that there are no loose ends.

    Managed Divorce Service – £189

    This service is the quickest and easiest way to dissolve your civil partnership. Our team of divorce experts handles all aspects of your dissolution and will keep you updated on the progress, each step of the way.