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Civil Partnerships

Rights and Responsibilities Overview

Upon registering a civil partnership:

  • Joint treatment for income-related benefits
  • Joint state pension benefits
  • Ability to gain parental responsibility for each other's children
  • Recognition for immigration purposes
  • Exemption from testifying against each other in Court

Upon dissolution of a civil partnership:

  • Fair arrangements for property division
  • Residence arrangements
  • Appropriate contact with children

Rights and responsibilities following the death of one partner include:

  • Right to register the death of a partner
  • Right to claim a survivor pension
  • Eligibility for bereavement benefits
  • Compensation for fatal accidents or criminal injuries
  • Recognition under inheritance and intestacy rules
  • Tenancy succession rights

Registration and Dissolution of a Civil Partnership

Civil partnerships are for adult same-sex couples that are not in an existing registered partnership or marriage. Couples who register have legal status as 'registered civil partners' and acquire a package of rights and responsibilities as outlined above, in the same way as married couples. Couples who want to split up must get a dissolution.

Registration of a Civil Partnership

Couples give notice of their intention to register at a registry office and can then sign the civil partnership register 15 days later. You do not have to be living together in order to form a civil partnership. There will be a fee involved in the registration process, just as there is for civil marriages.

When a heterosexual couple gives notice of their intention to marry, their details, including names, occupations and addresses are made public, the marriage register being a public document. The Government recognised that there would be issues for some lesbian and gay couples, such as risk of harassment, should their sexual orientation be made known to the general public. Registrars therefore only publish names and occupations, and not addresses, to help protect people's privacy and safety.

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The only necessary procedure on the day is that both partners sign the register with two witnesses. The Civil Partnership Act does not require a ceremony to happen and it actually prevents any religious service from taking place during the registration process. Just as with marriage, couples can arrange a ceremony in addition to the registration procedure if they want, and local authorities have been encouraged to provide such ceremonies when asked.

If you do decide to have a ceremony, you should discuss what you want to say with the registrar. If the local authority is offering the ceremony, they will need to agree the content.

Remember, you can register your partnership in any premises licensed to carry out registrations. Couples can form their civil partnership in licensed premises anywhere in the UK, so if you want to do it with a local authority different to the one where you live, you can.

Name changes

After the ceremony, legally you will now be 'civil partners'. You can also take your partner's surname if you want to, or you can combine your names. Female partners can change their titles from Miss to Mrs if they would like to.

Where one partner wishes to take their partner's surname, the Civil Partnership certificate is the only documentary evidence required for this change to be made.

Where both partners wish to create a new or double-barrelled surname, this will need to be done by Deed.

Dissolution of a Civil Partnership

The Government intends registered civil partnerships to be long-term, stable relationships so there is a formal, Court-based process for dissolution. You can only apply to the Court to bring your partnership to an end after at least one year together.

Dissolution is termination of a civil partnership; Divorce for gay marriage. A Dissolution Application must be filed citing one of the reasons listed contact Frisby & Small solicitorsbelow confirming that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. A Court issue fee (currently 410.00) will be payable unless you qualify for exemption.

The Court will accept only one of the following grounds:

  • That your civil partner's behaviour has been so bad that you can no longer bear to live with him or her;
  • That you and your civil partner have lived apart for at least two years and he or she agrees to a dissolution;
  • That you and your civil partner have lived apart for at least five years; or
  • That your civil partner deserted you at least two years ago.

Financial Settlements

In terms of your property and money, civil partners can make claims on each other's finances, just as heterosexual married couples can known as ‘Financial Relief/Remedy.’ You may need to consult a solicitor to assist you with coming to a financial settlement with your partner.


In relation to future arrangements for the children of the family the same rules and law apply as with heterosexual married couples. If an agreement cannot be reached than an application will have to be made under the Children Act 1989, subject to first attending a MIAM unless an exemption applies.

For a more detailed account of the procedure and law relating to Financial Relief/Remedy Applications and Children Act Applications. Please see our web pages on Financial Arrangements; Child arrangements orders; and Court Orders relating to children.

Please contact us for advice on family law.

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