What are Civil Partnerships?
Civil Partnerships are the UK Government's approach to giving comparable rights to same sex couples as those enjoyed by married heterosexual couples.
Civil partners will have equal treatment in a wide range of legal matters with married couples, including:
Tax, including inheritance tax;
Most state and occupational pension benefits;
Income related benefits, tax credits and child support;
Duty to provide reasonable maintenance for your civil partner and any children of the family;
Ability to apply for parental responsibility for your civil partnerís child;
Inheritance of a tenancy agreement;
Recognition under intestacy rules;
Access to fatal accidents compensation;
Protection from domestic violence; and
Recognition for immigration and nationality purposes
How does civil partnership differ from marriage?
Civil Partnership is a completely new legal relationship, exclusively for same-sex couples, distinct from marriage.
There are a small number of differences between civil partnership and marriage, for example,
a civil partnership is registered when the second civil partner signs the relevant document, a civil marriage is registered when the couple exchange spoken words.
Opposite-sex couples can opt for a religious or civil marriage ceremony as they choose, whereas formation of a civil partnership will be an exclusively civil procedure.
Who can register a civil partnership
Two people of the same sex will be able to register a civil partnership as long as:-
neither of them is under 16. People aged 16 or 17 will usually be required to obtain written consent from their parent(s) or legal guardian(s); and
neither of them is already a civil partner or lawfully married; and
they are not relatives who are legally forbidden from registering a civil partnership.
People aged 16 or 17
A young person who is 16 or 17 will need consent in order to register a civil partnership unless s/he is a surviving civil partner. S/he needs the consent of each parent with parental responsibility and any guardian.
There are some instances when a young person aged 16 or 17 will need the consent of someone else as well as a parent or guardian. This will usually be where the local authority is involved in the young personís care.
Sometimes parental consent may be unobtainable, for example, where the young person does not know where one of her/his parents is. In these cases, the register office may waive the need for consent or a court can give the necessary consent. A young person may need to get legal advice.
Parental consent may be refused. In such cases, the court can give the necessary consent. If a young person cannot get consent and decides to apply to court for the necessary consent, s/he should seek legal advice.
People who cannot register a civil partnership
A person can never register a civil partnership with any of the following relatives:-
a child, including an adoptive or former adoptive child
a parent, including an adoptive or former adoptive parent
a brother or sister, including a half-brother or half-sister
a parentís brother or sister, including a half-brother or half-sister
a brotherís or sisterís, including a half-brotherís or half-sisterís, child.
A person cannot register a civil partnership with any of the following relatives unless both of them are aged 21 or over when they register as civil partners and the younger of the two was not, before the age of 18, a child of the otherís family:-
a child of a former spouse or civil partner
a former civil partner of a parent or grandparent
a former spouse of a parent or grandparent
a grandchild of a former civil partner or former spouse.
A child of the otherís family means a person who:-
has lived in the same household as the other person; and
whom the other person has treated as a child of her/his family.
A person cannot register a civil partnership with any of the following relatives unless both s/he and the relative are aged 21 or over when they register as civil partners:-
a former civil partner of the personís child (but only if the child and the childís other parent is dead)
a former spouse of the personís child (but only if the child and the childís other parent is dead)
a parent of a former civil partner (but only if the former civil partner and the former civil partnerís other parent is dead)
a parent of a former spouse (but only if the former spouse and the former spouseís other parent is dead).
Where a couple can register a civil partnership
The range of places that an individual can register a civil partnership is broadly similar to that available for civil marriage. Every local authority is required to provide a facility for the registration of a civil partnership. It is possible to register a civil partnership at a different venue, for example, a hotel, as long it is approved for this purpose. Any premises approved for marriage will be deemed to be also approved for the purposes of civil partnership registrations.
The General Register Officeís website has a search facility for finding approved premises anywhere in England and Wales. The website address is www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/civilpartnerships.
Alternatively, a local authority will have information on approved premises in its area.
From 30 April 2007, it is unlawful for a provider of services to discriminate when offering a service on the grounds of sexual orientation, so that a venue could not lawfully refuse to allow a couple to have a civil partnership ceremony on its premises on the grounds of the sexual orientation of those applying to use the venue. However, certain religious organisations are exempt from this requirement and may be able lawfully to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. This means, for example, that a church could possibly refuse a gay couple rental of the church hall for their civil partnership reception. It would depend on how closely linked the hall was to the churchís activities Ė the hall would have to be owned or controlled by the church for it to be able to argue that it was allowed to discriminate.
What should a couple do before registration
Notice of proposed civil partnership
A couple must give notice of a proposed civil partnership to the local register office, even if they intend to register elsewhere. They can only do this once they have lived in the area for at least seven days. Each of them must give this notice in person. The notice must include where the couple wish the civil partnership registration to take place. The notice must also include a written declaration stating the following:-
that s/he believes that there is no legal reason why the civil partnership cannot be formed
that the proposed civil partners have lived for the preceding seven days in the local register officeís area or in the area of the register office to which they are giving notice.
If the couple have lived in the local register officeís area for less than seven days, each of them must wait for seven days before giving notice.
The local register office may ask for supporting evidence when the members of the couple give the required notice. This may include evidence of either personís name, age, nationality and details of any previous civil partnership or marriage. The register office can advise on what documents are needed.
If one partner is subject to immigration control, there are additional requirements.
Once the couple have given their notices, the register office must keep information relating to the notices on public display for 15 days. This should be in both the area in which the registration is to take place and in the area in which both partners live. The address(es) of the couple will not appear on the notice for reasons of privacy. The registration cannot proceed until the 15-day waiting period has passed for each of the notices. This is to allow any person to make an objection to a civil partnership in a similar way to an objection to a marriage.
Civil partnership schedule
Once the 15-day waiting period has expired, if there are no objections to the registration of the civil partnership and no legal reasons why it cannot go ahead, the register office must provide the couple with a legal document called a civil partnership schedule. The couple will need this in order to register a civil partnership.
If someone has made an objection, the register office will not provide the couple with a civil partnership schedule until:-
it has investigated the objection and is satisfied that the objection should not prevent it from providing the couple with a civil partnership schedule; or
the person who made the objection has withdrawn it.
Either member of the couple may appeal to the Registrar General against a register officeís refusal to issue a civil partnership schedule.
How to register a civil partnership
A civil partnership is formed either when a couple have completed a formal registration process or when they are treated as having formed a civil partnership by virtue of having registered an overseas relationship.
Once the 15-day period has expired, if no valid objections have been made, the proposed civil partners are free to register a civil partnership within twelve months of the first notice being recorded. If they do not do this within this time limit, they cannot register without starting the process again.
There are some circumstances where a civil partnership may be formed sooner than 15 days after giving notice, for example, where one of the partners is seriously ill and not expected to recover.
Two people are regarded as having registered a civil partnership once each of them has signed the civil partnership schedule or licence in front of two witnesses and the civil partnership registrar. The witnesses and registrar must also sign the civil partnership document.
A couple can get a civil partnership certificate when they register, although they must pay a fee for this. They can get further copies later if they wish.
There is no requirement to have any form of ceremony as part of the registration procedure, although a couple are free to arrange this if they so wish. However, no religious service is allowed at the signing of the civil partnership document.
Registering a civil partnership and change of name
A person may want to take her/his partnerís surname when the couple registers their civil partnership. The civil partnership certificate can be used as evidence of her/his new name. Many government agencies will accept this as adequate proof. However, some private companies, for example, a bank, may require a different standard of proof.
A member of a married couple who applies for a Gender Recognition Certificate cannot by issued with a full certificate. Instead the Gender Recognition Panel must issue an interim GRC.
Where an interim GRC has been issued and the applicant wishes to proceed to obtain a full GRC, the applicant must take steps to end her/his marriage or civil partnership within six months of the issue of the certificate. In England, Wales and N. Ireland, the issue of an interim GRC is a ground for making a marriage or civil partnership voidable. This enables them to move from marriage to civil partnership without any break between the two. There is more information about this process on the Gender Recognition Panelís website at www.grp.gov.uk.
There are special rules for:-
People who are seriously ill
People subject to immigration control
Civil partnership registration for two non-EEA citizens
Registering if one partner is in the armed forces and serves at sea
Registering a civil partnership outside the UK
If you need advice on any of these situations please use the e-mail advice service.
Fees are charged for various aspects of civil partnership registration, for example, giving notice and for the civil partnership registration itself. A local authority will set its own fee for civil partnership registrations which take place at approved premises. General information about the costs involved are available on the General Register Office's website at www.gro.gov.uk.
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