From the 31st of December 2019 mixed-sex couples have been able to enter into a civil partnership. This option was previously limited to same-sex couples, and was introduced back in 2004 as an alternative to marriage before marriage was made available to same-sex couples. Same-sex marriage was then introduced in 2014, allowing same sex couples to choose between civil partnership and marriage but opposite-sex couples were limited to marriage until the new legislation was introduced.
The choice between a civil partnership and a marriage has been welcomed by couples. Many people like the idea of being formally joined in an equal partnership. For some the idea of marriage isn’t suitable due to the religious connotations, or not enjoying the aspect of the bride being “given away” by her father. Although both parties still need to sign a document, there isn’t a traditional ceremony or any vows associated with a civil partnership – but of course, it can still be used as an excuse to throw a party!
There are minimal legal differences between a civil partnership and a marriage and many couples will find that there is no practical difference – inheritance tax rules apply equally to both married couples and civil partners, for example. However, there are some differences:
A marriage certificate requires just the names of both partners’ fathers, while a civil partnership certificate requires the names of both parents
A person in a civil partnership cannot seek an annulment based on non-consummation of the marriage or based on the other person having a sexually transmitted disease that could have been passed to them
A person cannot seek a divorce based on the other person having committed adultery, although the adultery can be brought in as part of a divorce based on the other person’s behaviour
Civil partners cannot call themselves ‘married’ for legal purposes
Apart from the differences set out above, separating when in a civil partnership is much the same as under marriage. The formal term for ending a civil partnership is ‘dissolution’ rather than divorce, and once it has been brought to an end it is classed as “dissolved”. Just as with a marriage, a civil partnership cannot be dissolved within the first 12 months.
The facts that can be used to bring a civil partnership to an end are:
Behaviour – this could include factors such as physical or mental cruelty, abuse, being irresponsible with money, or being sexually unfaithful (as mentioned above)
Desertion – where one party has left the party making the application for at least two years prior to the application
Separation for Two Years – (With Consent) – where the parties have been out of a relationship for at least two years and both parties agree to the civil partnership being dissolved.
Separation for Five Years – (No Consent Needed) – where the parties have been out of a relationship for at least five years.
In certain situations a person may be eligible to get the civil partnership annulled, which does allow the civil partnership to be ended within the first 12 months of its existence. As an alternative, separating couples may also choose to arrange a separation agreement with a view to dissolving their partnership when more time has passed.
We previously wrote about the introduction of “no-fault” divorce. The legislation planned to introduce this is no longer progressing through Parliament following the general election in December 2019 however we remain hopeful that it will be introduced soon and that the no-fault principles will apply to both marriages and to civil partnerships where the relationship has come to an end.