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What is a civil partnership and how have UK laws changed?

It's all change when it comes to civil partnerships in the UK - but how does this affect you? We've got all the information you need

Since their introduction in 2005, civil partnerships have only been available to same-sex couples. But that is all set to change. Soon, civil partnerships will be available to all in England and Wales, including heterosexual couples. So if you’re a heterosexual couple who want to legally formalise your relationship (doesn’t that sound so romantic?), you now have two options to choose from: marriage or civil partnership.

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What is a civil partnership?

Originally civil partnerships were created to allow same-sex couples to have the same sort of legal protections as you get with marriage – at that time, same-sex couples were not allowed to legally marry in England and Wales. Same-sex marriage was legalised in England and Wales in 2014, which meant same-sex couples then had the choice between marriage and civil partnership.

However, civil partnership was not made available to mixed-sex couples at the time, leading to a campaign that went to the Supreme Court. The law was changed, and from 31st December 2019, mixed-sex couples will be able to have civil partnerships in England and Wales. The Scottish government is holding a public consultation on whether to open up civil partnerships to heterosexual couples.

What are the differences between marriage and civil partnership in the UK?

In terms of legal and financial protection, there are very few differences – we explain the details in our guide to marriage and civil partnerships.

When is this happening?

From New Year’s Eve 2019, mixed-sex couples will be able to have a civil partnership. Dozens of couples have apparently already registered their intent, which means they’ll be able to sign their civil partnership on 31st December 2019. The government estimates that anything from 2,700 to 84,000 couples will take up the chance to have a civil partnership in 2020.


Why have a civil partnership instead of getting married?

It’s a very personal choice. Some couples aren’t comfortable with marriage as a tradition, and want to put their relationship on a legal footing in a different way. Some couples are uncomfortable with the fact that marriage certificates in England and Wales currently only include the fathers’ names – civil partnership certificates contain both parents’ names. Couples may also feel that the religious connotations of marriage make it the wrong option for them, even with the possibility of having a civil ceremony, where any religious mentions are banned. And with a civil partnership, it’s not compulsory to have a ceremony – although you can if you want! “We’re a straight couple and we got engaged as soon as the change in law was announced,” says a You & Your Wedding forum user, who’s planning a 2020 ceremony. “I like the idea of being equal partners. I’m not one of those who thinks marriage is evil and that it degrades women etc, but I do like the idea of a civil partnership more.”

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