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What Does Civil Partnership Mean in the UK?

Love knows no boundaries, and in the United Kingdom, couples have a variety of options when it comes to legal recognition of their relationship. One such option is a civil partnership. But what exactly does civil partnership mean? How does it differ from marriage? And who can register for one? In this blog post, we will delve into civil partnerships in the UK, exploring their rights, benefits, and everything you need to know about registering one. So whether you’re considering taking this meaningful step or simply curious about what civil partnership entails, keep reading to uncover all the answers!

What Does Civil Partnership Mean?

What Does Civil Partnership Mean in the UK?

A civil partnership is a legally recognised relationship between two people that offers similar rights and responsibilities as marriage. It was introduced in the UK in 2004 to provide same-sex couples with legal recognition and protection. However, since 2019, opposite-sex couples have also been able to enter into civil partnerships.

Unlike marriage, which has historical and religious connotations, civil partnership is purely legal. It allows couples to publicly declare their commitment to each other without the religious or traditional associations often associated with marriage.

In terms of legal status, civil partnership provides many of the same rights and protections as marriage. This includes financial benefits such as inheritance tax exemptions, pension entitlements, and legal recognition for immigration purposes.

Civil partnership offers an alternative option for couples who may prefer not to marry but still want their relationship acknowledged and protected under the law. Whether you choose marriage or civil partnership ultimately depends on your personal preferences and beliefs about what best suits your relationship dynamic.

What Are Civil Partnership Rights?

Civil partnership rights in the UK refer to the legal rights and responsibilities afforded to couples who choose to enter into a civil partnership. Introduced in 2004, civil partnerships were initially available only to same-sex couples but have been extended to opposite-sex couples as well since December 2019. Here are some key rights associated with civil partnerships in the UK:

Legal recognition: A civil partnership is a legally recognised union between two people, providing them with legal rights and responsibilities similar to marriage.

Financial benefits: Civil partners are entitled to similar financial benefits as married couples, including tax advantages, inheritance rights, and pension benefits.

Parental rights: Civil partners have parental responsibility for their partner’s biological children from before the partnership and any children born or adopted during the partnership.

Immigration rights: Civil partners from outside the UK may be eligible for immigration benefits and can apply for a visa to join or remain with their partner in the country.

Social Security benefits: Civil partners have the same entitlements as married couples when it comes to social security benefits, such as survivor benefits and access to state pensions.

Property and tenancy rights: Civil partners have legal protections when it comes to property ownership, tenancy rights, and the division of assets in case of dissolution.

Legal recognition abroad: Civil partnerships are recognised in some other countries, providing certain legal protections when travelling or living abroad.

It’s worth noting that civil partnerships differ from marriage in certain aspects, such as the terminology used and religious ceremonies not being allowed. However, in terms of legal rights and protections, civil partnerships offer similar benefits to married couples in the UK.

Difference Between Marriage and Civil Partnership

Difference Between Marriage and Civil Partnership

Marriage and civil partnership are both legally recognised unions, but there are certain differences between the two. The most obvious difference is the terminology used. Marriage is commonly associated with a religious or cultural ceremony and is often referred to as a “wedding.” Civil partnership, on the other hand, is a secular legal union and is often called a “partnership.”

Another distinction lies in their eligibility criteria. In the UK, marriage has traditionally been open to opposite-sex couples, while civil partnership was initially introduced for same-sex couples. However, since December 2019, opposite-sex couples also have the option to enter into a civil partnership.

Religious ceremonies are often associated with marriage, taking place in religious settings and incorporating religious rituals and traditions. Civil partnerships, in contrast, cannot be conducted in religious venues and do not involve any religious elements.

The process of ending a marriage is known as divorce, which requires specific legal procedures. Dissolving a civil partnership is referred to as a “dissolution” and follows a similar legal process to divorce.

Symbolically, marriage is often viewed as a lifelong commitment and union, representing both a personal and cultural institution. Civil partnership, while also a serious commitment, is generally seen as more focused on legal and financial rights rather than societal or historical symbolism.

Additionally, marriage is widely recognised globally, while civil partnerships may or may not be recognised in other countries. This is an important consideration for those planning to live or travel internationally.

Regarding legal rights and protections, the UK has made significant progress in providing similar benefits to married couples and civil partners. However, it’s advisable to consult with a legal professional or research specific laws and regulations to understand all the rights and responsibilities associated with each type of union.

Who Can Register a Civil Partnership?

In the UK, civil partnerships can be registered by both same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples. Originally, civil partnerships were introduced in 2004 as a legal union specifically for same-sex couples. However, following a change in the law, beginning in December 2019, opposite-sex couples are also eligible to enter into a civil partnership.

The process of registering a civil partnership involves both individuals giving notice at their local register office. They must meet certain eligibility requirements, such as being of the opposite sex or same sex, at least 16 years old, and not already married or in a civil partnership. The couple can proceed with the registration ceremony once the notice period has elapsed, typically 28 days.

It’s important to note that while civil partnerships are legally recognised in the UK, they may not be recognised in all countries. Therefore, if you plan to travel or live internationally, it’s advisable to check the legal status of civil partnerships in that particular jurisdiction.

How to Register a Civil Partnership?

How to Register a Civil Partnership

To register a civil partnership in the UK, you need to follow a few steps:

Give notice: Both you and your partner must give notice of your intention to enter into a civil partnership at your local register office. This should be done at least 28 days before the intended registration date. You’ll need to provide certain documents, such as proof of name, address, nationality, and evidence of your freedom to enter into a civil partnership.

Choose the venue: Select a venue where you’d like to register your civil partnership. It can be a registered office, approved premises, or a religious building that has been registered for civil partnerships.

Attend the registration ceremony: On the day of your civil partnership registration, you and your partner, along with two witnesses who are at least 16 years old, will attend the ceremony at the chosen venue. During the ceremony, you’ll sign the civil partnership document, and the witnesses will also sign it.

Receive the civil partnership certificate: Once the registration is complete, the registration office will issue you with a civil partnership certificate, which serves as legal proof of your partnership.

It’s important to note that the process and requirements may vary slightly depending on the specific location within the UK. It’s advisable to contact your local register office or consult official government websites for accurate and up-to-date information on registering a civil partnership in your area.

The Cost of Registering a Civil Partnership

The cost of registering a civil partnership in the UK can vary depending on several factors. First and foremost, it’s important to note that local authorities set the fees associated with registering a civil partnership, so they may differ across different regions.

In general, the cost of registering a civil partnership includes two components: the notice fee and the ceremony fee. The notice fee is paid when you give formal notice of your intention to register a civil partnership, and this fee is usually non-refundable. The ceremony fee covers the actual registration ceremony itself.

The exact amount of these fees can vary, but as an example, in England and Wales, the notice fee is £35 per person if both partners live within that district for at least seven days before giving notice. If either partner does not meet this residency requirement or if one or both partners are subject to immigration control, then there may be additional fees involved.

As for the ceremony fee, again, it can vary depending on where you choose to have your civil partnership registered. Some venues charge extra for specific services or facilities provided during the ceremony.

What Are the Advantages of a Civil Partnership Over Marriage?

what does civil partnership mean

One of the main advantages of a civil partnership over marriage is that it offers legal recognition and protection for same-sex couples. Prior to the introduction of civil partnerships, same-sex couples in the UK did not have access to many of the rights and benefits that married heterosexual couples enjoyed.

By entering into a civil partnership, same-sex couples are able to gain legal recognition for their relationship and enjoy similar rights and responsibilities as married couples. These include inheritance rights, pension benefits, next-of-kin status in medical decisions, and access to joint finances.

Another advantage is that civil partnerships provide a level of flexibility that may be appealing to some couples. Unlike marriage, which has certain cultural and historical expectations attached to it, civil partnerships offer a more modern approach. Couples can tailor their partnership agreement based on their specific needs and preferences without being bound by traditional gender roles or societal norms.


Civil partnerships are an important part of the UK’s legal framework, offering couples a way to have their relationship legally recognised. It is important for individuals considering entering into a civil partnership to understand what this means regarding their rights and responsibilities, particularly regarding issues such as inheritance and property ownership. We hope this article has provided you with some helpful information about civil partnerships in the UK so you can make an informed and right decision.


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