Civil partnership or marriage for same sex couples?

Year Published: 2021

Civil partnership or marriage? Our family team considers the legal differences.

Same sex couples have been able to enter civil partnerships since 2005 and marriages since 2014. With the Methodist church voting this year that same sex marriages are to be welcomed, this now allows same sex couples to marry in the Scottish Episcopal Church, Quakers, United Reformed Church and Methodist church. It is hoped that the first same sex marriages in Methodist chapels will begin before the end of this year which is a huge step forward in the efforts to reach equality.


Is there a difference between a civil partnership and a marriage?

A brief summary of the differences are as follows:

  • Married couples cannot call themselves civil partners for legal purposes and civil partners cannot call themselves married.
  • Marriage is solemnised by saying a prescribed form of words (vows) whereas civil partnerships are registered by signing the civil partnership document.
  • The administrative process is similar, although marriages are registered on paper and civil partnership are recorded in an electronic register.
  • Marriages can be conducted through a civil ceremony or a religious ceremony. Civil partnerships are an entirely civil event.
  • Marriages are ended by divorce whereas civil partnerships are ended by dissolution. Both are fundamentally the same and require that the marriage or civil partnership has broken down irretrievably. A key difference is that adultery cannot be relied on to dissolve a civil partnership but can in a marriage – only if the adultery has occurred between two people of the opposite sex. Same sex adultery is not yet recognised in law.

Fundamentally, there is no difference in how the law is applied upon relationship breakdown. The same principles apply to financial claims upon divorce or dissolution; therefore, this should not influence your decision.

For any more information about anything in the article, please contact our family team on 0344 391 5884 or any of the key contacts below.

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