You and your partner will each need to give notice of your intention to register a civil partnership to the local register office where you live. You must do this in person. You will need to do this even if you are going to register your civil partnership somewhere else. You must have lived in that area for at least seven days before you can give notice there.
When you give notice, you will be asked to give details of the date and place where the civil partnership is to be registered, so you should contact the venue where you are going to register first.
You do not have to be living together in order to form a civil partnership. There will be a fee involved in the registration process, just as there is for civil marriages. You will also have to give the register office certain personal details, such as your name, age, address, and whether or not you have been in a civil partnership or marriage before. You will be asked to provide evidence of these details, for example your passport. If you have been married or civil partnered before then you also need to show proof of your divorce/ dissolution or the death certificate of a former partner. If one of you is subject to immigration control, you may have to apply to the Home Office for permission to register a civil partnership.
When a heterosexual couple gives notice of their intention to marry, their details, including names, occupations and addresses, are made public, the marriage register being a public document. The Government recognised that there would be issues for some lesbian and gay couples, such as risk of harassment, should their sexual orientation be made known to the general public. Registrars therefore only publish names and occupations, and not addresses, to help protect people's privacy and safety.
After giving this notice, you must register the partnership within the next twelve months. If you don't register your civil partnership within this period, you will not be able to register unless you start the whole process again.
The only necessary procedure on the day of registration is that both partners sign the register with two witnesses. The Civil Partnership Act does not require a ceremony to happen and it actually prevents any religious service from taking place during the registration process. Just as with marriage, couples can arrange a ceremony in addition to the registration procedure if they want, and local authorities have been encouraged to provide such ceremonies when asked. If you do decide to have a ceremony, you should discuss what you want to say with the registrar. If the ceremony is being offered by the local authority, they will need to agree the content.
There are special procedures for couples where one partner is either ill and not expected to recover, or is detained in prison or hospital.
Remember, you can register your partnership in any premises licensed to carry out registrations. Couples can form their civil partnership in licensed premises anywhere in the UK, so if you want to do it with a local authority different to the one where you live, you can.
After the ceremony, legally you will now be 'civil partners'. You can also take your partner's surname if you want to, or you can combine your names. Female partners can change their titles from Miss to Mrs if they would like to.
Where one partner wishes to take their partner's surname, the Civil Partnership certificate is the only documentary evidence required for this change to be made.
Where both partners wish to create a new or double-barrelled surname, this will need to be done by Deed Poll.
For more information about how to change your name/s, please see: www.ukdps.co.uk/ACouplesRightsUponACivilPartnership.html
The government intends registered civil partnerships to be long-term, stable relationships so there is a formal, court-based process for dissolution. You can only apply to the Court to bring your partnership to an end after at least one year together.
The Direct.Gov website has a useful breakdown of the whole dissolution process, with all the necessary paperwork to download, at: www.direct.gov.uk, under the government, citizens and rights section.
You'll first need to fill in a form called a petition (form D8) giving the reasons for the dissolution to show that the partnership is definitely over. The petition will need to be taken to a court which deals with civil partnership dissolutions. The relevant courts and their contact details are listed on the same website mentioned above. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau (www.citizensadvice.org.uk) can help with the forms if you need assistance.
You'll need to show the court that you have grounds for dissolution. It's not enough to say that you're bored or have fallen out of love with each other. The court will accept only one or more of the following grounds:
There will also be court fees involved in a dissolution process. You may not have to pay these but this will depend on your individual financial situation, such as whether you are on income support. The HM Courts Service also has information about court fees, and what to do if you can't pay them.
Although you apply to the court you don't necessarily need a solicitor. This is certainly the case if you both consent to the dissolution and are able to reach an agreement on the custody and care of any children and the distribution of shared assets.
If you need help to resolve any issues you could seek the advice of a trained mediator. This option often helps avoid costly court and solictor fees and, in some cases, you may be eligible for legal aid to help cover the expense. You can also seek additional legal advice to ensure any decisions made are fair and that your rights have been protected.
For further information on mediation and to find an accredited mediator please go to www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk
You can find contact details for gay friendly legal advisors through Stonewall's 'Whats In My Area' database.