Civil Partnership

A statutory Civil Partnership registration scheme for same-sex couples was introduced in January 2011 under the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010. The Act sets out the rights and obligations that civil partners have towards each other. These are broadly the same as the rights and obligations of married couples towards each. The Act does not change the law on issues relating to children, for example, guardianship, adoption, custody, access or maintenance.

On registration of a civil partnership, civil partners are treated in the same way as spouses under the tax and social welfare laws.

The law also recognises certain classes of legal relationships which are registered in other countries and which meet certain criteria.

Registering of civil partnerships

Under the scheme same-sex couples can register their relationship as a civil partnership. The Registrar-General is obliged to maintain a register of civil partnerships, a register of decrees of dissolution of civil partnerships and a register of nullity of civil partnerships. The registration rules and processes are broadly similar to those for the registration of a civil marriage, annulments of marriage and divorce.

There are various reasons why you may not be allowed to become civil partners – legally, these are known as impediments. The main ones are age, close blood relationship and an existing valid marriage or civil partnership.

The formalities are broadly similar to the formalities for marriage. Among other things, this means that you must give three months’ notice of your intention to enter into a civil partnership. A civil partnership ceremony must be held at an approved venue.

Ending a civil partnership

The courts are able to grant a decree of nullity of civil partnership in broadly the same way as decrees of nullity of marriage are granted. The courts are also able to dissolve civil partnerships in a similar way to the granting of divorce. However, the rules governing the dissolution of civil partnerships are different.

Orders such as protection orders, maintenance orders and pension adjustment orders may be made in the course of court proceedings for the dissolution of civil partnerships in the same way as such orders may be made in judicial separation and divorce proceedings.