News and Events

Marriage and Civil Partnerships: The Legal Differences

View profile for Claudia Hubert
  • Posted
  • Author
Marriage and Civil Partnerships:  The Legal Differences

If you are considering taking the next step in your relationship and committing to a legally binding partnership, it is important to be aware of the options available to you for either getting married or entering into a civil partnership.

Marriage is a legally recognised union between two people. Similarly, a civil partnership is a legal relationship which can be registered by two people. Both marriage and civil partnerships are available to same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples.

Marriage is not suitable for everybody. Those who have been married before may have personal reasons for not repeating the process, and a civil partnership offers an alternative to marriage that gives your relationship legal recognition.

The main difference between a civil partnership and marriage is the way in which they are formed. Vows form a marriage and can be performed in a religious ceremony before signing a marriage certificate, whereas a civil partnership is formed by signing a civil partnership certificate.

Divorce and dissolution

Marriages are ended by divorce, whereas civil partnerships are ended by dissolution, although the process is fundamentally the same. You cannot apply for a divorce or dissolve a civil partnership until the marriage or civil partnership is one year in length.

The introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 has meant that since 6 April 2022, you no longer have to place blame on your partner to end a marriage or civil partnership. All that is required is a statement confirming that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. The new law also means that the divorce or dissolution cannot be disputed unless the marriage or civil partnership is less than one year in length or the Courts of England and Wales are not the correct place for the divorce or dissolution to take place

Financial settlement following the breakdown of a marriage or partnership

Spouses and civil partners have a legal responsibility to support each other financially, and on the breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership, the couple have the same claims for financial relief as follows:

  1. Income claim – This is a claim for your spouse or civil partner to make monthly payments to you for a specified period of time or indefinitely. It must be demonstrated that you require financial support in order to meet your income needs.
  2. Capital claim – This includes claims against capital assets, such as the family home.
  3. Pension claim – This is a claim against your partner’s pension. Where pension assets are significant, it may be necessary to instruct a pension actuary for specialist advice.

Benefits of each

Many of the advantages, rights and obligations afforded to married couples are also provided by entering into a civil partnership, the most notable being:

  • As explained above, civil partnerships offer partners the same potential rights for financial relief as married couples on dissolution.
  • If you or your civil partner dies without making a will, the other partner will inherit some or all of your property.
  • You benefit from an exemption from inheritance tax as a civil partner.
  • You will often obtain pension benefits as a civil partner.
  • You have the ability to obtain parental responsibility for a partner’s child.
  • You will have “home rights” – i.e., you will have a right to remain in the home, regardless of who bought it or has a mortgage on it, until a court has ordered otherwise.

Can you get married after declaring a civil partnership?

If you are in a same-sex civil partnership, you can convert it to a marriage in England and Wales. You can choose to hold a marriage ceremony if you wish to celebrate with friends and family or simply follow the administration process at a registry office. However, opposite-sex couples in a civil partnership are not currently able to convert their partnership to a marriage, and marriages cannot be converted to civil partnerships.

For further information on the legal differences between civil partnerships and marriage, please get in touch for a free 15-minute telephone consultation. I can be contacted on 0330 8182 848 or via email

Marriage and Civil Partnerships: The Legal Differences

View profile for Claudia Hubert
  • Posted
  • Author
Marriage and Civil Partnerships:  The Legal Differences
The contents of this blog are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this blog.