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The UK government legalised gay marriage with the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, giving homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual couples. You may assume that this means that civil partnerships no longer exist, but they do. Same-sex couples in the UK are able to decide between marriage and civil partnerships – a choice that is not currently offered to opposite-sex couples, who can only marry. 


Marriage vs. Civil Partnerships

There is currently a lot of confusion surrounding this topic, so we’ll try to make it easier for you to understand:

From a legal standpoint, these two unions share very similar characteristics. In fact, civil partners have exactly the same legal rights in many areas of the law, including: 

• Acquiring parental responsibility 

• Child maintenance 

• Inheritance tax

• Social security

• Tenancy rights

• Full life insurance recognition

• Next of kin rights

• And more

Essentially, there are very few differences from a legal standpoint between marriage and civil partnerships except for the fact that only homosexual couples are able to enter into civil partnerships. There are slight variations in terms of financial rights, for example if on partner dies then the surviving partner may receive a lower pension share than they would had the couple been married.

Additionally, when it comes to divorce and annulment of these relationships, the differences are marginal between the two with the main point being that civil partnerships cannot be ended on the grounds of adultery, whereas marriages can. 


Do Civil Partnerships Still Exist?

Yes, same-sex couples are able to choose between marriage and civil partnerships. Both of these unions are created to recognise the bond between two people, however the ideas behind each relationship are quite different. 

Marriage, for example, is a historic institution that is recognised around the world as being legally binding. A civil partnership on the other hand is not legally recognised in some other countries, which can cause difficulties if you are emigrating or require marriage rights while abroad – in the case of an emergency for example.

This isn’t a problem that’s restricted to civil partnerships however, you will find also find the same restrictions on gay marriage in various countries – with some placing it at a similar level to a civil partnership, while others do not recognise it at all. 

On the other hand, many people see civil partnerships as being more modern and therefore expressed more equality within the relationship, rather than the institutionalised patriarchy that’s ingrained within marriage. While this is largely down to personal opinion, it is one of the main reasons that civil partnerships still exist and why heterosexual couples are campaigning for CP

Read more: 10 Years of Civil Partnerships – Facts and Statistics


Converting Civil Partnerships to Marriage

Couples who have already undergone a civil partnership but wish to be married can easily change this at a register office or a licenced wedding premises. There is a £4 fee for the marriage certificate and you will need to present your original civil partnership certificate and ID to complete the conversion. 

For more information on how to convert civil partnerships into a marriage click here.  


Financially Protecting Yourself

Whether you are entering into a same-sex or opposite-sex marriage or a civil partnership, it is a good idea to financially protect yourself with a prenuptial agreement. These are available for all types of union and can help to protect your assets in the case of a divorce, annulment or dissolution. 

These are referred to as ‘pre-civil partnership agreements’  for this type of relationship, but work in the same way in that they lay out the couple’s assets and income and what would happen to them in the result of a relationship breakdown. 

While this may not be the most romantic gesture you can make, it goes a long way to help in avoiding costly disputes and maintaining an amicable relationship. These agreements can be easily drafted by a qualified family solicitor, offering you peace of mind and reducing the chances of a messy outcome should a marriage or civil partnership not work out. 


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