Marriage vs civil partnership - what’s the difference?

What’s the difference between marriages and civil partnerships?

Two men in suits holding hands

Originally published on 14th November 2018 at 2:17 PM

In June 2018, the news covered a couple who successfully won a case against the Supreme Court which allows them to enter into a civil partnership rather than getting married. This sparked the question for a lot of couples, ‘what’s the difference between marriage and entering into a civil partnership?’. We’ve listed some of the top differences below:

Marriage Civil partnerships
Same-sex couples and heterosexual couples can get married Only same-sex couples can currently enter into a civil partnership (although this will likely change due to recent Supreme Court case)
The wedding ceremony must be carried out in a registered venue There is no requirement for a ceremony to take place
Vows must be exchanged to formalise the marriage. The marriage register must be signed by both of you, your two witnesses and the registrar. A document, signed in front of two witnesses and a registrar, formalises the civil partnership.  The document must be registered.
Marriage certificates require the name and profession of the father only Both parents’ names are required for the civil partnership certificate
Marriage is a globally recognised institution There are some countries that do not recognise civil partnerships
You can annul a marriage it was not consummated (you haven’t had sex with the person you married since the wedding (does not apply for same-sex couples)) Consummation is not a legal requirement of civil partnerships
Adultery is accepted as a ground for divorce (but only if the person has had sex with someone of the opposite sex) You cannot use adultery as a reason to dissolve the civil partnership.
You can opt for a religious or civil ceremony The only option is a civil ceremony
If the couple divorces, it is ended by a Decree Absolute If civil partners legally separate, it’s ended by a Dissolution Order
Traditionally seen as a religious ceremony Free of religious connotations

A common question is ‘do civil partners have the same rights as married couples?’. In short, yes, married couples have the same property rights, the same exemptions on inheritance tax, social security and pension benefits as civil partners.

For more information, head to our blog or book a call with an amicable divorce expert.

Rebecca Jones
Rebecca Jones
Rebecca has a background in family law and has also been through her own divorce. Rebecca is fantastic at offering pragmatic advice and is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to the legalities around divorce and separation.


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