What is a Civil Partnership & How Does it Compare to Marriage?


Find out everything you need to know about a civil partnerships in our handy guide, including how they compare to a marriage and how to get one 

Civil partnerships were first introduced in 2005 to provide legal recognition and protection for LGBTQ+ or same sex couples prior to the momentous law change in 2014 which saw same sex marriage become legal in the UK. As of 2019, both opposite and same sex couples in England and Wales can now choose between a civil partnership and marriage.

There are a number of reasons why you may choose not to marry, for example patriarchal and religious beliefs, but if you still want to formalise your relationship and obtain legal rights and responsibilities, a civil partnership might be a great alternative for you and your partner.

We've outlined everything you need to know about civil partnerships, including how to get one and the difference between a civil partnership and marriage so can see which is right for you.

  • What is a civil partnership?
  • What is the difference between civil partnership and marriage?
  • How do you get a civil partnership?

Civil Partnership FAQ: Everything You Need to Know

What is a Civil Partnership?

A civil partnership is a legal relationship formed by two people which provides them with the same legal rights and duties that a marriage would. The legal requirements to form a civil partnership are that you must both be aged 16 years old or over, not already be in a civil partnership or marriage, have lived in the same area in England or Wales for at least seven days and not be close blood relatives.

You do not need by law to have a ceremony in addition to the registration procedure but you are more than welcome to do so and it is still a popular choice with couples as it can be a lovely way of marking your commitment to each other.

The Civil Partnership Act prevents any religious service from taking place during the formation of a civil partnership.

What is the Difference Between Civil Partnership and Marriage?

From a legal standpoint, a civil partnership and a marriage share similar rights in many areas including parental responsibility, child maintenance, inheritance tax, life insurance recognition and next of kin rights.

However, there are a couple of differences:

  • A marriage is formed by vows before signing a marriage certificate, whereas a civil partnership is formed by signing a civil partnership certificate and no spoken word is required
  • Civil partners cannot call themselves 'married' for legal purposes

A civil partnership is ended by dissolution, whereas you'd divorce to end a marriage. In a civil partnership, you will require officials to dissolve the partnership and you must have been together in the civil partnership for at least a year before you can apply.

Despite being legally recognised in a number of countries, there are some locations where a civil partnership is not.

How Do You Get a Civil Partnership?

There are two steps to registering a civil partnership - giving notice and registration.

Giving Notice

You and your partner will each need to give notice of your intention to register a civil partnership to the local authority where you live at least 28 days before the date. When you give notice, you will be asked to give details of the date and place the civil partnership is to be registered, so we recommend contacting the venue where you are going to register beforehand.

You will also have to give personal details, such as your name, address, age and nationality - providing documentary evidence of these, for example a passport.

A fee is needed to give notice of your intention to register a civil partnership and a registration fee - the cost of this will depend upon where you want to register.

The register office will then give you a legal document called a civil partnership schedule which you will also be charged a fee for. You must register within the next 12 months of receiving this or else you will have to start the process again.


To register a civil partnership, you and your partner must sign a civil partnership document in front of two witnesses and a registrar. You can register your civil partnership in any register office or at any venue that has been approved to register civil partnerships. Anywhere that has been approved to hold civil marriages will automatically receive approval to register civil partnerships, however religious premises are not obliged to host civil partnership ceremonies.

If you entered into a civil partnership, but perhaps always wanted to be married, you can convert your civil partnership into a legal marriage in England or Wales. Typically, this will cost £45.