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What is the difference between marriage and civil partnership?

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You may be considering taking the next step in your relationship and committing to a legally binding partnership. However, it is important to be well informed about the options available to you in terms of choosing to be married or entering into a civil partnership.

If you find yourself considering civil partnership or are already in one and wish to know more about your legal rights, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our friendly and professional solicitors in Farnham , Surrey for advice related to marriage and civil partnerships.

What is a civil partnership?

A civil partnership is a legally recognised relationship between two individuals that provides them the same legal rights and duties as a traditional marriage. A civil partnership is registered under the law and offers couples an effective alternative to marriage, being particularly well suited to couples who desire a more modern approach whilst avoiding the religious and patriarchal connotations of a traditional marriage.

The Civil Partnership Act of 2004 introduced Civil Partnerships, while the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Act of 2019 extended the provision to include same-sex couples.

The primary difference between these two legal relationships is due to their different processes of formation. In a marriage, the union is formed through an exchange of vows, normally in a religious ceremony, and is followed by the signing of a marriage certificate.

A civil partnership, however, is established entirely through the couple signing a civil partnership certificate, but both unions are considered virtually equal in the eyes of the law.

What are the differences between the two?

It is important to note that a civil partnership provides almost all of the same benefits, rights and obligations as a marriage does, with the most notable being:

  1. A civil partnership can only be terminated by dissolution (which is equal to a divorce) or death.
  2. Civil partners will benefit from the same rights to their partner’s estate as couples who are married, as well as having the same tax benefits.
  3. Civil partnerships offer partners the same potential rights to financial maintenance as married couples.
  4. If parents are in a civil partnership at the time of their child’s birth, both will automatically be given parental responsibility of said child.

There are several legal differences between a civil partnership and a marriage, however these have been severely reduced in recent years to promote inclusion and equality. The main differences include terminology, ceremonial differences, conversion (couples in a civil partnership have the option to convert their partnership into a marriage, and vice versa for married couples).

The dissolution process (for a civil partnership this is referred to as “dissolution” whereas it is called “divorce” within a marriage).  When a couple gets married in the UK marriages, there marriage is recognised worldwide, whereas UK civil partnerships will not be legally recognised in all countries.

Can anyone enter into a civil partnership, or are there restrictions based on gender or sexual orientation?

Originally, civil partnerships were designed and intended as alternatives to marriage for same-sex couples. However, due to the introduction of the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc.) Act in 2019, opposite-sex couples have been granted to option to enter into civil partnerships. Due to this, any individual, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation is able to form a civil partnership that is recognised in the eyes of the law. This also means that same-sex couples are able to become legally married, should they so choose to do so.

This law ensures that all individuals have access and opportunities to enter into a civil partnership or marriage, in turn promoting inclusivity and diversity overall.

Speak to our solicitors in Farnham, Surrey for advice related to civil partnerships and marriage

If you find yourself considering civil partnership or are already in one and wish to know more about your legal rights, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our friendly and professional solicitors in in Farnham, Surrey.

Our solicitors in Farnham have years of experience providing couples of all gender identities, sexualities and backgrounds with practical and compassionate advice. We can provide civil partnership legal advice on what your legal rights are within their specific situation, and recommendations on your best options.

You can contact your local BakerLaw office or email us at