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Civil Partnership and Marriage. What’s the difference?

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Do you know the similarities and differences between civil partnerships and marriages?

In our previous blog post, “Civil Partnership: The option to convert your marriage”, we explored some of the differences between a marriage and a civil partnership.

Helpfully, this position has been scrutinised by the Government Equalities Office in the wake of the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc) Act, which came into force in March 2019.

A table has been released, which sets out the similarities and differences between civil partnerships and marriages, as they apply to same-sex and opposite sex couples.  You can follow this link to view this informative resource.

Using the table to compare and contrast the different positions, we noticed that there were a couple of interesting points, including:

  • Civil partners cannot call themselves married for legal purposes.
  • Civil partnership is an entirely civil event. The union remains secular with no religious ceremony.
  • Only opposite sex marriages formed in England and Wales are currently uniformly recognized internationally.
    When travelling abroad, couples who have undertaken same sex marriages, same sex civil partnership and civil partnerships, are advised to establish what rights they may have under the laws of the individual countries in which they plan to travel.
  • A marriage is ended with divorce by obtaining a decree absolute, while a civil partnership is ended with dissolution by obtaining a dissolution order.
  • Adultery is not a valid reason to dissolve a civil partnership, but it can be used to divorce.

In the main, the table highlights that administratively all four processes are handled in a similar fashion. An example of this is all requiring 29 days’ notice prior to the ceremony/civil partnership occurring.

Here at Maguire Family Law, we recognise that in terms of officially committing to spending your life with your partner, there aren’t many significant differences between marriage and civil partnership. Day to day living will not be dramatically impacted by a decision to commit to one another, be it through a marriage ceremony held in a church, a ceremony held in a field or a union formalised through a ceremony at your local council offices.

Taking the step to marry or enter into a civil partnership is however, one of the biggest decisions most of us will take in our lives, and of course one thing that same sex marriage, opposite sex marriage, same sex civil partnership and opposite sex civil partnership do have in common is that they all have legal consequences.

If you would like to explore your options, prior to taking the step to marry or enter into a civil partnership, such as drafting a pre-nuptial agreement, please contact a member of our experienced team, who would be happy to offer informative cost efficient advice.


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

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