As of March 2014, same sex couples in the UK have been able to get married due to the introduction of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. Same sex couples can still enter a civil partnership, rather than get married, if they choose and heterosexual couples can also enter into civil partnerships.
Civil Partnership v Marriage
The first point to be made is that different pieces of legislation govern the rules around the formalities, and also the rules around separation.
In terms of how each of the formalised relationships are formed, there are several differences including:
· Marriage requires the saying of a prescribed form of words, whereas civil partnerships are registered by the signing of a document only.
· The formation of a civil partnership is entirely a civil event. A ceremony can follow, but it will not form part of the actual formation of the partnership.
Furthermore, marriages are registered on paper, whereas details of a civil partnership are recorded in an electronic register.
It is entirely a personal choice whether a couple wants to enter into a civil partnership, a marriage (or neither).
Divorce v Dissolution
Unfortunately, there are situations where a civil partnership or marriage breaks down irretrievably and the parties seek a dissolution or divorce. There have recently been major changes to the law surrounding divorce and dissolution as a result of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020.
As of 6 April 2022, the new “no-fault divorce” was implemented. However, it is important to note that the changes made do apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships, not just divorce. We have written various insights on the new no-fault system which can be found on our website, including a guide.
A key aspect of change, which applies to all relationships, is the removal of the requirement to cite a reason for the breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership. One of the flaws under the outdated fault based system was that it was not possible for a same-sex couple cite adultery as the reason for the breakdown of the relationship. This was clearly not fit for purpose or inclusive, and is one of the many reasons why the updated law has been so welcomed.
How we can help
If your marriage or civil partnership has broken down and you are looking for support and advice on your next steps, please contact our Family Team who can provide a free initial consultation to discuss your concerns and set out the process in more detail.