Marriage vs civil partnership - what’s the difference?

Marriage vs civil partnership - what’s the difference?

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
About the author 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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