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Do you know the difference between marriage and civil partnership?

In 2019 the Civil Partnership (opposite Sex Couples) Regulation 2019 allowed opposite-sex partners to also enter into civil partnerships. This made everything equal for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. A man and woman no longer have to get married; they can enter into an agreement without saying vows. A civil partnership is formed by signing the civil partnership document in front of witnesses and a registrar.

As of December 31st 2019 both sets of couples could enter into a civil partnership. Civil Partnerships were originally introduced in the early 2000’s by the Civil Partnership Act 2004 for same-sex couples, to “bridge the gap” before the law around same-sex marriage was introduced. The act finally enabled same-sex couples to form a legal bond similar to a marriage and have the same rights around things such as inheritance.

Everyone now has the same coupling rights

In 2013 the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 came into play allowing same-sex couples to finally marry. This meant that same-sex couples could choose whether to marry or enter into a civil partnership. One of the differences between a marriage and a civil partnership is that when a couple get married, the marriage certificate only details the name of the parties fathers. In a civil partnership the names of both parents of each party are named.

  • You can get “married” if you are a same-sex couple or opposite-sex couple
  • You can enter into a “civil partnership” if you are a same-sex-couple or opposite-sex couple
same sex marriage

The differences between marriage and a civil partnership

If you are in an opposite-sex or same-sex relationship, you now have the same options to legally tie yourselves. There is only one factor which is different when it comes to a reason for divorce or dissolution, and that is that a person cannot commit adultery within a civil partnership. Adultery can only happen when a married person has sex with another person outside the marriage (that person has to be of the opposite sex too). Being in a civil partnership means you are not married, but, you guessed it, you are in a civil partnership.

If you are entering into a civil partnership you cannot define your relationship as a marriage. You are not “married”.  To be married, a couple exchange spoken words or vows. A civil partnership is formed when both parties have signed the civil partnership document in the presence of a registrar and two witnesses.

Entering into a civil partnership does not require a ceremony and it’s recorded electronically, whereas marriages are registered on paper.

How does the rest of the world look at Marriages and Civil Partnerships?

Every country is different, and although opposite-sex marriages are recognised internationally, the same can’t be said for same-sex marriages or indeed for civil partnerships between any couple. It all depends on the laws of the country you are in. So it’s worth considering, if you are an opposite-sex couple, that it might be more beneficial to go into a marriage as it’s world recognised. For same-sex couples, unfortunately the world still needs to catch up on marriage or civil partnership.

What happens in a divorce or dissolution?

The divorce or dissolution process formally ends a marriage or civil partnership. The law presumes that as adults and/or parents you will be able to organise the separation of the finances and children yourselves. However, if you cannot come to an agreement, then you can apply for the court to assist in resolving issues. In an amicable divorce or dissolution, a couple will use mediation, an online portal, one couple one lawyer or a solicitor to negotiate between them.

Children and Finances are seen as two separate matters and although there are obvious crossing points such as child maintenance, the cases for children and finances will run separately. This means that you could see yourself resolving issues around child arrangements while financial matters are still ongoing.

Although the process for divorce or dissolution is much the same, there are some slight differences in how things are done and the terminology used.

Make sure you get professional advice before agreeing to anything with your future ex. With emotions running high, it’s easy to make rash decisions now and have future regrets.

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