Prior to 2004, a same-sex couple might live together, and be entitled to certain (limited) legal recognition of their relationship by virtue of being cohabitants. However, there was no mechanism equivalent to marriage through which that relationship could be formally recognised.
This changed with the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (CPA). The CPA introduced recognition for same sex relationships. Same sex couples were able to register their relationship and acquire many of the same rights and obligations that married heterosexual couples have.
The CPA came into force on 5th December 2005, since which date Civil Partnerships have been available to same sex couples.
The CPA defines a Civil Partnership as a relationship between two people of the same sex, either:
The definition makes it plain that a Civil Partnership between a heterosexual couple is not possible.
In order to form a Civil Partnership in England and Wales, notice must first be given in the same way as is required for a marriage. Notice is given at the couples local register office. Notice must be given, and publicly displayed, for at least fifteen days before the Civil Partnership ceremony. The proposed Civil Partners must have lived in the area in which they wish to give notice for at least seven full days before they will be eligible to give notice.
If the couple plan to hold the Civil Partnership ceremony other than where they live, they should also contact the register office responsible for that area to give notice.
Once notice has been given, it is valid for up to twelve months. However, if the couple decide to change the venue for their Civil Partnership, fresh notice must be given.
Both of the proposed Civil Partners must attend the register office in person. No-one else can go for them, and one cannot go for the both of them.
The following details must be given for each of the proposed Civil Partners in the notice:
Documentary evidence will be needed to prove name, nationality, age and address. A current passport or drivers licence will be sufficient in many cases. Alternative documents that might be suitable include birth certificates, national ID cards, bank statements and utility bills. Proposed Civil Partners should check with the Superintendent Registrar in advance to make sure they have the necessary documents.
So long as the notice requirements have been met, the Civil Partnership is formed on both parties signing a Civil Partnership document. They must sign this document in the presence of one another, a Civil Partnership Registrar and two witnesses.
It is now possible to conduct a Civil Partnership ceremony on religious premises. Whether the ceremony can be held at a venue depends on the particular tenets of the religion in question.
Frequently, people change their name when registering a Civil Partnership. A copy of the Civil Partnership certificate will usually be sufficient proof of the change.
The CPA includes provisions about recognising here legal partnerships and same sex marriages from other countries. Schedule 20 to the CPA includes a list of countries and relationships that will automatically be recognised here as Civil Partnerships.
Even if a foreign relationship is not mentioned in Schedule 20, it will likely be recognised here as a Civil Partnership so long as:
As a general rule, so long as the formalities for a valid same sex relationship have been observed in the country where the ceremony occurred, and the parties have legal capacity, the relationship will be recognised here.
Civil partners may decide to enter into an agreement that says how their property, income and other financial resources will be divided if the relationship ends.
The agreement may be reached either before or after the Civil Partnership ceremony. If before, the document is called a Pre-Civil Partnership Contract (or Agreement). If after, it is called a Post-Civil Partnership Contract (or Agreement).
Civil Partnership Contracts are treated in exactly the same way as nuptial agreements (between husbands and wives).
In short, a Civil Partnership Contract is not absolutely enforceable. However, its terms would be taken into account by any court considering what was a fair division of assets, income and financial resources on the breakdown of the Civil Partnership.
Those in a Civil Partnership enjoy the same rights as those in a marriage.
So, a Civil Partner can acquire PR for his or her partners children by agreement or court order. Civil Partners are generally treated as married people for the purposes of entitlement to welfare benefits.
If a Civil Partnership breaks down, the partners have the same financial claims – to maintenance, lump sum payments, property transfer orders and pension sharing – as husbands and wives enjoy.
Some other areas where Civil Partners enjoy the same rights as married heterosexuals include:
Unless specifically stated, it ought to be assumed that Civil Partners rights mirror those that spouses have.
The processes for ending a Civil Partnership are virtually identical to those for ending a marriage. There are only a few key differences:
Leaving aside these minor variations, the procedure for obtaining a dissolution is identical to that for obtaining a divorce. The procedure for obtaining a financial order on dissolution is identical to that for obtaining one on divorce.