Does A Civil Partnership Give Me The Same Rights As A Marriage?
Initially, the Civil Partnership Act 2004 provided a means for same sex couples to formalise their relationship in a similar way to a marriage. In 2019, following a Supreme Court decision the Civil Partnership Act was amended to enable opposite sex couples to also enter into a marriage.
Entering into a civil partnership or a marriage are both ways to formalise a relationship and albeit mostly similar there are some differences between the two types of relationships.
A civil partnership is formed by signing the civil partnership document and there is not a requirement for words to be spoken. A marriage is formed by saying specific vows.
ENDING A CIVIL PARTNERSHIP
To end a civil partnership, you will need to apply to the court for a dissolution. The process is very similar to a divorce in that you have to show the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. One key difference between ending a marriage and a civil partnership are the facts which you can rely on. A petition for divorce can be on one of the following facts:
- 2 years separation with consent
- 5 years separation without consent
In a dissolution application you can also rely on one of the above facts except for adultery which cannot be relied on.
The terms used in the divorce process and dissolution process are also slightly different:
- When you first submit your dissolution application, if the court is satisfied that the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down, you will be granted a conditional order. In the divorce process, the document received at this stage would be a decree nisi. This is only the first stage.
- To end the civil partnership, you will need to apply to the court to obtain a final dissolution order. In the divorce process this is known as the decree absolute.
There are various similarities in the rights available to couples in a civil partnership and those in a marriage which are briefly summarised below:
A. FINANCIAL RELIEF
At the end of a marriage or civil partnership a financial claim can be made against your spouse or civil partner. You can make the same type of claims e.g., for a lump sum order, property adjustment order, pension sharing order etc. irrespective of whether you are married or in a civil partnership.
Civil partners have the same rights as spouses when it comes to making applications under the Children Act 1989. It is important to note that where a surrogate is used and neither of the civil partners or spouses in the relationship are the biological parent, parental responsibility will have to be acquired by an order of the court.
C. DOMESTIC ABUSE
The protection available from domestic abuse for civil partners is the same as spouses. Civil partners can apply for injunctions such as Non-Molestation Orders and Occupation Orders.
Although there are numerous similarities in the rights available to civil partners and spouses, a couple in a civil partnership cannot refer to themselves as being ‘married’ for legal purposes and vice versa for married couples, they cannot refer to themselves as ‘civil partners’ for legal purposes.