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The Proposal – What Is The Best Way To Formalise Your Relationship?

Same Sex Marriage

Congratulations! You are in a happy and loving relationship and thinking of taking the next step. What is the best way to formalise your relationship?

There is no longer any discrimination in the way that opposite sex and same sex couples can create a legal relationship. Both couples can either get married or enter into a civil partnership. It is also possible to convert a civil partnership into a marriage. Some same sex couples decide not to do either and simply cohabit, which is a formal way of saying that they live together as a couple.

This is brief guide to same-sex marriages, which first became available in 2014.


You can get married either in a civil ceremony (for example a civil ceremony in a register office or approved premises such as a country house hotel) or you can get married on religious premises with the ceremony being blessed through a religious ceremony.

However, you will need to check whether the religious premises agree to hold same-sex marriages.

What are the consequences of being married?

There is an obligation on each party to make reasonable financial provision to the other during the marriage and at the end. For example, if one party is not working the other party should be helping to cover their living costs. These obligations do not automatically exist if you only live together rather than get married.

A spouse (which is one party to a marriage) acquires certain rights to live in the family home, even if it is not in their name. These are called Family Home Rights.

Married couples receive favourable tax treatment compared with cohabitants. For example, your are likely to pay less inheritance tax.

On death, a spouse is treated more favourably than a cohabitant. This means that if one spouse has not made sufficient provision for the other in his/her/their Will, the spouse can make a claim for financial provision.

Finally, a marriage can only be brought to an end by divorce or nullity, which is another legal process.

Why get married?

There are greater financial protections for married couples than there are for cohabitants. This means that at the end of the marriage or on death you will be able to make financial claims to ensure that your housing and income needs are met to the extent that the resources allow.

Top tips

  • Not all countries recognise same-sex marriage or civil partnerships. If you are planning to move abroad or have assets abroad you should take local advice from a lawyer on their status.
  • You should consider whether you would prefer to have a civil partnership, which broadly offers the same rights and protections as marriage.
  • You may want to consider having a prenuptial agreement or a pre-civil registration agreement which sets out what the parties intend to happen to their finances if the relationship breaks down. This can save a lot of pain and costs in the unfortunate event that the marriage does not last.
  • If you want to remain cohabiting you should consider a cohabitation agreement setting out the financial arrangements between you, particularly in relation to any property that you own.

If you require further advice about civil partnership, prenuptial and cohabitation agreements, and marriage, please get in touch with one of our family law experts on 0808 252 5231 or request a call back online.