The latest annual statistics on the formations and dissolutions of civil partnerships analysed by the sex, age, and previous marital status of the couples has just been made available, writes Victoria Maxwell, a Solicitor in our Forming Families team.
The Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc.) Act 2019 has enabled eligible opposite-sex couples to form a civil partnership since December 2019, and the first of these took place on 31 December 2019. Same-sex couples may convert their existing civil partnership to a marriage if they wish but, at present, opposite-sex couples do not have this right to convert.
There were 167 opposite-sex civil partnerships formed in England and Wales on 31 December 2019; this was the first day it was possible to do so following the change in legislation to extend civil partnerships rights to opposite-sex couples.
There were 994 same-sex civil partnerships formed in England and Wales in 2019; this was an increase of 4.0% from 956 in 2018 and an increase of 9.5% from 908 in 2017.
The majority (61%) of same-sex civil partnerships in England and Wales in 2019 were between men, a lower proportion compared with the previous year (65%).
Nearly in one in five (19%) of those entering a same-sex civil partnership in 2019 were aged 65 years and over; this compares with just 4.0% in 2013, prior to the introduction of marriages of same-sex couples.
About three-quarters (72%) of same-sex civil partnerships formed in England and Wales in 2019 were to couples where both partners were single (that is, never previously entered into a marriage or civil partnership); this percentage has remained broadly consistent since the introduction of same-sex civil partnerships in 2005.
There were 916 same-sex civil partnerships dissolutions granted in England and Wales in 2019, a small decrease of 1.2% from 927 in 2018; of these, 54% were to female couples.
Kanak Ghosh, the statistician at the Office for National Statistics comments, “On 31st December 2019, civil partnerships were extended to opposite-sex couples after having historically been only for same-sex couples. On this day, 167 opposite-sex couples took the opportunity to register their partnerships. Meanwhile, just under 1,000 same-sex couples also chose to form a civil partnership during 2019, a small increase from the previous year. Around 1 in 5 of those forming same-sex partnerships in 2019 were over the age of 65, a noticeable increase since 2013 where it was only 1 in 25.
“Next year, we expect to see further increases to the overall number of civil partnerships in England and Wales as more opposite-sex couples choose to become civil partners.”
Following the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, the first day that couples could normally form a same-sex partnership was 21 December 2005 in England and Wales.
The Scottish Law Commission is currently consulting on the laws for cohabiting couples in Scotland but it would be surprising if their laws didn’t eventually change cohabitation laws so they are much more closely aligned with those of married couples.
In other jurisdictions such as New Zealand and Australia, unmarried couples are automatically granted the same rights as married couples after they have lived together for a certain period of time. However, as my colleague Louise Barretto has also frequently written on her blog here, my advice as well would be to anyone currently part of a cohabiting couple is to make sure you’re aware of your rights.
Regardless of your situation, and whether you plan to marry or not, it’s sensible to ensure you know where you stand legally, and seek professional advice if you have any questions.
The above is accurate as at 12 April 2021. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.