What Is A Civil Partnership And How Do I Get One?

Photo by Stefano Bolognini

In Europe, same-sex relationships can be documented as far back as Ancient Greece

For the many gay couples living or co-habiting in the UK, the 2005 Civil Partnership Bill was long overdue.

What is a Civil Partnership?

A civil partnership is a binding contract recognised by the law. For same-sex couples, it offers access to many of the legal rights already enjoyed by heterosexual couples who choose to marry. In November 2003, the British Government announced its intentions to legalise same-sex partnerships throughout the United Kingdom. Despite expectations of strong opposition, the bill became law in 2004 and came into effect on December 5th 2005.

Why Are Civil Partnerships Important?

Compared to the razzle-dazzle of the big day, it’s easy to forget how important legal entitlement will be to a same-sex couple; even if they don’t realise it at the time.

Some of the key benefits are:
  • The right to enter a joint claim for income related benefits
  • The right to receive joint state pensions
  • The right to take parental responsibility for each other’s children
  • The right to be recognised as a legal couple by immigration authorities
  • The right to register the death of a partner
  • The right to claim bereavement benefits
  • The right to be exempt from Inheritance tax
  • The right to tenancy succession
  • and the right to be named as next of kin.

How Do I Get A Civil Partnership?

In order to register your intention you will need to:

  • Be at least 16 years old. However, if either partner is under 18 years then parental consent is required (not applicable in Scotland).
  • Be of the same sex as your intended partner (straight couples are not allowed to enter into a civil partnership)
  • Be single, divorced or widowed.
  • Give notice of your intentions at a local register office and place your name on display to the public for 15 days. You must also have lived within the registration district for at least the last 7 days.
  • Bring with you two forms of identification: a passport, birth certificate, driving licence, national identity card or an immigration status document are acceptable.
  • Bring with you proof of address which might include a utility bill, a bank statement, a council tax letter or drivers licence. If it is a letter, then it must have been sent to your house within the last 3 months.
  • Be willing to pay a non-refundable fee to the register office.
  • After 15 days, assuming there has been no objection, you are then free to register your partnership at any time during the next 12 months.

You can register your partnership in any venue that has been approved by the local council.  Once the civil partnership schedule has been signed, (the official document) then the union is legally recognised, so long as it was officiated by a registrar and overseen by two witnesses. Most couples will incorporate this into a ceremony, but unlike a traditional marriage, there is no legal requirement for same-sex couples to exchange vows or words (although, most same-sex couples do).

What’s Next?

Although, civil partnerships are considered akin to marriage, same-sex couples have not yet been afforded total equality. From March 13th
 2014 however, this is changing. Same-sex couples will be eligible to register their notice of marriage and then marry their partner under full acknowledgement of the law. This will give them entirely the same social, legal and financial rights as any husband and wife, regardless of gender or sexuality. 

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