Civil partnerships were introduced in 2005 by the Civil Partnership Act 2004. Same-sex marriage was introduced on 29 March 2014 in the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013. This gives same-sex couples two options; marriage and civil partnership, but only allows heterosexual couples one option; marriage.

Same-sex couples entering into a civil partnership are afforded exactly the same rights as they would have had they chosen to be married instead. The rules for entering into a civil partnership mirror those for marriage. To bring a Civil Partnership to an end it is necessary to apply to the Court for a dissolution.

For both Same Sex Marriages and Civil Partnerships, it is necessary to prove that the partnership has broken down irretrievably and the partner who is starting the divorce or dissolution must prove the irretrievable breakdown by relying on one of the following:

  • Unreasonable behaviour;
  • Desertion for a period of two years or more;
  • That you have lived separately for a period of two years or more (and your partner consents);
  • That you have lived separately for a period of five years or more.

Adultery cannot be used as a reason to dissolve a same sex marriage or civil partnership. In a heterosexual marriage, if one party is unfaithful this is grounds for divorce.

The process after issuing the Divorce or Dissolution is the same as heterosexual divorces, see our Divorce Procedure Flowchart.

Communication and seeking specialist advice is key in ensuring that the divorce or dissolution proceeds smoothly. The court has the same powers as it does upon divorce in relation to the finances and any children.

I am in a Civil Partnership, will my partner be subject to inheritance tax on my death?

For succession planning, civil partnership has the same advantages as marriage, particularly in terms of inheritance tax. A couple in a civil partnership can pass on death any assets they own to their civil partner free of IHT. They can also take advantage of the transferable nil rate band, which allows a civil partner to claim any of their deceased civil partner's unused inheritance tax allowance on the second death. Equally, during their lifetimes, civil partners can transfer assets between each other under the same rules as married couples.

What are the differences between same sex marriage and civil partnerships?

The government have prepared a comparative table which you can see here.

For further advice on the consequences contact a member of the family team.

I am a victim of domestic violence in a same sex marriage, what are my rights?

You have the same rights as a heterosexual marriage and are entitled to apply for an Injunction. Non molestation & occupation order are available to offer you protection if you are a victim of emotional, mental or physical abuse and can demonstrate you are at a significant risk of harm. 

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