Converting a Civil Partnership to a Marriage?

Changes in the law in 2018 have resulted in a marital revolution. Now, heterosexual couples are eligible to enter into civil partnerships. However, were you also aware that couples already in a civil partnership can also convert it into a marriage as of December 10th 2014?

Read on for all you need to know about the changes within the law, how to alter your marital status and what these amendments mean to you.


What is a civil partnership?

A civil partnership is a legally recognised relationship between two people, and it offers many of the same benefits as a conventional marriage.

A Supreme Court ruling in 2018 means that now mix-sex couples can form a civil partnership, effective from December 2nd 2018. 

Civil partnerships were initially introduced to allow gay couples similar legal rights to married couples. Now heterosexual couples can form a union under this same title.

You may wonder why a couple would choose a civil partnership over marriage. Simply put, it is down to personal choice. 

Marriage does not always fit with everyone’s ideologies. Some view marriage as heavily steeped in patriarchal traditions. Such as being ‘given away’ by their fathers or promising to ‘obey’ their husbands.

Moreover, some simply do not want to be ‘married’ or have differing social, political, or religious views to what a traditional marriage means. 

A civil partnership can offer legal and financial security but without overriding connotations.

What are the differences between a civil partnership and a marriage?

There are some differences between a civil partnership and marriage, but these are generally in terms of expressions and ceremonial practices. 

Human rights and equality mean that those in a civil partnership benefit from the same rights as married couples.  

However, the main disparities between the two are as follows:

1. Religion

There are no religious inferences associated with a civil partnership. 

That is what makes it a favourable option for those who want to formalise their relationship but do not want to align themselves with a specific religion.

A civil ceremony takes place in front of a registrar, unlike a marriage, which can either be a civil union or involve a recognised religious leader such as a vicar or a rabbi.

2. Ceremony

A marriage is legalised by the exchanging of vows, whereas a civil union is validated after both parties sign the civil partnership document.

A marriage certificate requires just the names of both partners’ fathers, while a civil partnership certificate requires the names of both parents.

3. Terminology

With marriage, partners typically refer to one another as “husband” and “wife”. However, with a civil partnership, couples cannot legally describe to themselves as ‘married’. They generally reference their respective other as a ‘partner’.

4. Ending A Union

When it comes to ending a marriage, it is done through the process of a divorce (a decree absolute). However, a civil partnership ends with a dissolution (dissolution order).

Also, adultery is not a valid reason to dissolve a civil partnership, but it can be used to divorce.

So, what about same-sex marriage?

The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill passed through Parliament in 2013. It means that those in England and Wales have the option between a same-sex marriage or a civil partnership if they wish.

How do same-sex marriage and a civil partnership compare?

There remains a lot of confusion about the similarities and differences between same-sex marriage and civil partnerships, so here is a quick rundown.

From a legal viewpoint, both are remarkably similar. Civil partners have the same legal rights in many areas of the law. This includes:

  • Acquiring parental responsibility
  • Child maintenance
  • Inheritance tax
  • Social security
  • Tenancy rights
  • Full-life insurance recognition
  • Next of kin rights

There are slight variations in terms of economic rights. Nevertheless, these are case-specific. For example, if one partner dies, then the remaining partner may receive a lower pension share compared to if they had been married.

Additionally, adultery cannot be used as grounds to end a civil partnership, whereas, in marriage, it can.

If you are unclear about your legal and financial allowances, then we recommend speaking to a qualified civil partnerships solicitor.

Why might you want to convert a civil partnership into a marriage?

If you had entered into a civil partnership before 2014, but perhaps always wanted to be married, now you can!

You can transfer your civil partnership into a legal marriage in the UK.

There are several reasons that couples may want to do this. However, privacy is often the overriding reason. Ordinarily, only homosexual couples were eligible for a civil union, and some see this terminology as a forced declaration of sexuality.  

Can I convert my same-sex civil partnership into a marriage?

In England and Wales, you can convert your civil union into a marriage.

The rules are different in Scotland, as you will need different paperwork. In Northern Ireland, you are currently not allowed to convert a civil union into a marriage.

How do I convert my civil partnership into a marriage?

You can convert your same-sex civil partnership into a marriage at the following venues:

  • A registry office
  • A local registration office
  • Religious premises or site approved for marriages of same-sex couples

You will receive a marriage certificate, and this will be dated when your civil partnership was formed.

You cannot convert a heterosexual civil partnership into a marriage in England and Wales.

How much does it cost?

The current fees are as follows:

  • £11 for a marriage certificate
  • £45 to convert your civil partnership
  • £27 for an appointment (only applicable if you have a ceremony)

What will I need?

To begin with, you will need to sign a ‘conversion into marriage’ declaration. To do this, you will need to make an appointment with a superintendent registrar at your nearest register office.

The identification you need will depend on the specifics of your local office. However, you will need your original civil partnership certificate. 

It is best to confirm what is going to be mandatory before your appointment.

Looking for a Civil Partnership solicitor?
Do you need advice on registering a civil partnership or drafting pre-civil partnership agreements to organise your finances, our civil partnership solicitors are here to help you take the next step.

How do I convert with a ceremony?

You will need to contact a registered venue to book a date for your ceremony.

You can have the ceremony at venues where same-sex couples can get married. But it is always best to check before you book or pay a deposit.

Your friends and family can attend, but you do not need witnesses in this instance.

You will both need to sign a ‘conversion into marriage’ declaration. The superintendent registrar must be in attendance and will also sign the declaration.


Can I convert my union abroad?

If you formed your same-sex civil union in the UK, you might be eligible to convert it into a marriage abroad.

Not all countries allow this, so contact your nearest British embassy or consulate to find out if you are eligible. The countries you can currently convert in are:

Albania, Australia, Germany, Japan, Malta, Montenegro, Mozambique, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Serbia, and Vietnam.

Who is eligible to convert their civil partnership into a marriage abroad?

You can convert your same-sex civil partnership abroad, but all of the following need to apply:

  • You have been living in the country for at least 28 days
  • Your civil partnership took place in England, Wales, or Scotland
  • At least one of you is a British citizen

What documents will I need for converting abroad?

You will need:

  • Both passports
  • Proof of residency
  • The original civil partnership certificate

How much will it cost to convert abroad?

The current fees are as follows:

  • £150 to convert your civil partnership. You should check how to pay with the embassy or consulate in the relevant country
  • £50 for a marriage certificate. This is usually paid in the local currency

Key Takeaway

Any change in the law to enhance and support equality for all is a positive step in the right direction. However, understandably, these amendments can result in some confusion and uncertainty.

Are you considering altering your ‘couples’ status’? Whether that be through a civil partnership or converting to marriage, then we are here to help.

Contact one of our civil partnerships solicitors to talk through your options today.


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