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Civil Partnerships vs. Marriage – What’s the difference?

Civil Partnerships are now available for both same sex couples and mixed sex couples, but what are the differences between Civil Partnerships and Marriages? And are there any legal differences?

Monday 2nd December was the first day where a mixed sex couple could register their intent to enter a civil partnership in England. With the minimum period of notice being 28 days, this means that the first mixed sex civil partnership documents could be signed on New Year’s Eve this year.

What are the key differences between a marriage and a civil partnership?

  1. Civil partnerships are formed by signing a Civil Partnership document, a Marriage is formed by making vows
  2. Marriages can be formed on a religious premise or at a religious ceremony, Civil Partnerships can not
  3. The Civil Partnership document will list both parents from each partner, whereas a Marriage certificate only lists the Father on both sides
  4. In Marriage, you would typically refer to your partner as your husband or wife, with a civil partnership, you would use the term ‘civil partner’

Are there any legal differences between them?

Family Law

The main differences between marriage and civil partnership within Family Law only really relate to how it ends following a relationship breakdown.

  1. A marriage ends by divorce and a civil partnership ends by dissolution. The process for both is very similar and both are followed by child and financial arrangements
  2. Adultery cannot be used as reasoning for a divorce or dissolution if it is committed with a person of the same sex
  3. Both a marriage and a civil partnership can be annulled, however a civil partnership (or in fact a same sex marriage) cannot be voided on the basis of non-consummation  

Wills and Probate

Civil Partnerships and marriage hold the same legal standing when it comes to Probate and administration matters.

  1. As with marriage, if your civil partner was to die, you wouldn’t have to pay tax on your inheritance
  2. If your civil partner dies without a valid Will in place, then you could still stand to inherit under the intestacy rules as you would if you were married

About the Contributors

John Cooke is a member of the Wills & Probate team at Amphlett Lissimore, specialising in all Wills, Probate and Residential conveyancing matters. Donna Rose and Karen Bowey are part of our Family law team, based at our Crystal Palace office. They specialise in Divorce & Dissolution and Financial arrangements.

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