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Civil Partnership: the option to convert your marriage

top divorce specialist


I commented in June last year about the case of the opposite sex couple, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who won their landmark case in the Supreme Court to be entitled to enter into a civil partnership rather than a marriage.


The Government has this week published plans to bring in the change in the law to extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples by the end of this calendar year.


The Government is also considering giving already married couples the chance to “convert” their marriage to a civil partnership. There is to be a public consultation on the issue. We wait with interest to see whether the Government take that next step and, if so, how many married couples decide to proceed with the conversion.


And yet at one stage in recent years, it seemed that civil partnerships may become a thing of the past.


Once the law changed to allow same sex couples to marry, the number of couples entering into a civil partnership dramatically reduced. Presumably many same sex couples asked themselves the question ‘why have a civil partnership when marriage is an option?’  However, the Steinfeld/Keidan case highlighted the, perhaps unforeseen, wish of some couples to formalise their relationship but without actually getting married.


So what are the differences between a marriage and a civil partnership?


The main difference in the formation of a marriage as against a civil partnership is that marriages can be conducted through either a civil ceremony or a religious ceremony whereas the formation of a civil partnership is an entirely civil event.   Also, marriages are registered on paper in the form of a hard copy register whereas the details of a civil partnership are recorded in to an electronic register.

However, in the main, a civil partnership gives each party the same rights and claims upon the breakdown of the partnership as a marriage does.

In the event of a marriage or civil partnership breaking down then there are some differences in terms of process and procedure.  For example, marriage is ended by a decree absolute of divorce whereas civil partnerships are dissolved by way of dissolution order, but this is really just terminology.


A married spouse can file for divorce based on their husband or wife’s adultery whereas that option is not available to civil partners.  The remainder of the facts upon which to base a dissolution of a civil partnership mirror those of divorce.  That said, the day where ‘no fault’ divorce/dissolution is an option will come around at some point in the relatively near future.


For specialist family law advice in relation to divorce or dissolution of civil partnerships please contact Henry Venables on 01565 743300 or





For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: or telephone:

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