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Civil partnerships update

It’s just over a year since the law changed on 31 December 2019 allowing mixed sex couples across the country to enter into civil partnerships. On that day alone 167 mixed sex couples registered their partnership but we will have to wait until later this year to see if it has been as popular as expected, when the first figures are published by the Office for National Statistics.

An interesting trend with same sex couples has been the increase in age of those registering partnerships, with a rise in the over 65’s age group.

The change in the law to allow mixed sex couples in England and Wales to enter into a civil partnership means they now have similar legal rights as married couples and the same rights as same sex couples who enter into a civil partnership.

With the restrictions on getting married due to the Covid pandemic and the squeeze on household incomes, there might be many more couples deciding to cohabit rather than get married.

Cohabiting mixed sex couples are the fastest growing family type in the UK and nearly half of all children are now born to unmarried couples. Unlike other European countries, the law in England and Wales has been slow to recognise this and provide legal protections for those who do not want to get married. Many cohabiting couples don’t realise that there are no protections in law for this type of ‘common law’ relationship. A civil partnership could now be a beneficial option for these couples to consider.

Civil partnerships provide similar legal protection as marriage, so when one person dies, their partner can access their separate bank accounts to withdraw any money left in the account.

Other legal protections include:

  • In the absence of a Will, the death of a civil partner will allow the other to inherit some or possibly all of their estate.
  • A civil partnership means both parties have a legal responsibility to support one another financially if their partnership ends, just as in marriage.
  • Civil partners also have a right to remain in a home, regardless of who bought it, or has a mortgage on it, unless a court orders otherwise.
  • If you are in a civil partnership, you may be able to claim a state retirement pension based on your partner’s national insurance contributions.
  • You can also claim bereavement benefits and in some cases a retirement pension based on your partner’s national insurance contributions.
  • Those in a civil partnership are eligible for marriage tax allowance, so one partner can transfer £1,250 of their personal allowance to the other if they earn more.


If you enter into a mixed sex civil partnership and have children together, you will automatically have parental responsibility for the child if you are the birth mother or father. If you have children from other relationships the person you enter into a civil partnership with will be their step-parent and will not automatically have parental responsibility, however you can obtain this by making a parental responsibility agreement or applying for a court order.

The process:

You can form a civil partnership in England and Wales if you are aged 16 or over and you are not already married or in a civil partnership and are not closely related to the person who you wish to partner. If you are aged under 18 you need the permission of your parents or guardian.

If you are not a British citizen, do not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK or are from outside of the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland then you must apply for a visa to form a civil partnership. Before forming a civil partnership, you must give notice and sign a legal statement at your local register office to say you intend to form a civil partnership.

You must give at least 29 days-notice before the ceremony which must also be held within 12 months of giving notice. It costs from £35 per person although the fee is £47 per person if you are from outside of the EU, EEA, Switzerland and need a visa to live in the UK and do not have a marriage or Civil Partnership visa or a family visa.

You may have a number of questions about whether a civil partnership will work for you and also whether a pre-registration agreement, similar to a pre-nuptial agreement would be beneficial.

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