Marriage and Civil Partnerships

Follow this link if you have questions about how to convert your civil partnership into a marriage

The following information is specific to the Welsh context, legal powers, advice services and policy development.

On this page:

Guide to Civil Partnerships

Click the links below to download Stonewall's Guide to Civil Partnerships

Get Hitched: A guide to Civil Partnerships
Clymwch y Cwlwm! Canllaw i Bartneriaeth Sifil 

This guide to Civil Partnerships can be downloaded in 9 other languages and a large print English version here.

An overview of Civil Partnerships

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force on 5 December 2005, and the first registrations took place on 21 December, 2005.

Civil Partnership is a completely new legal relationship, exclusively for same-sex couples, which is distinct from marriage. It gives couples the ability to obtain legal recognition for their relationship, creating the new legal status of "civil partner". Lesbian and gay couples who register as civil partners will have formal legal recognition of their relationships, and will have rights and duties to each other and to third parties and the state.

To enter into a Civil Partnership, couples will need to register their intentions, like civil marriage. If there is a breakdown of the relationship then there will also be a dissolution process, similar to divorce.

Civil partners will be treated like married partners for the purposes of tax, nationality and immigration, inheritance, liability for maintenance and child
support, tenancies, employment and pension benefits and protection from domestic violence.

To enter a Civil Partnership Civil partners must be:

  • of the same sex
  • not in an existing civil partnership or marriage
  • old enough to commit to a partnership (i.e. 18 without permission, 16 with permission)
  • not 'within the prohibited degrees of relationship.'

The rights and responsibilities civil partners will include:

  • a duty to provide reasonable maintenance for your civil partner and any children of the family
  • civil partners to be assessed in the same way as spouses for child support
  • equitable treatment for the purposes of life assurance
    employment and pension benefits
  • recognition under intestacy rules
  • access to fatal accidents compensation
  • protection from domestic violence; and
  • recognition for immigration and nationality purposes.

How do you go about a Civil Registration?

  • First you need to register with a Registrar
  • There is a 15 day notice period which is posted in the Register Office
  • Both parties will need to provide ID and proof of their current address. The addresses will be recorded in the notice and in the registration of the partnership but will not be shown on the copy notice which is publicly displayed.
  • The parties must give notice in the area which they reside (Foreign Nationals may need to go to certain designated offices).
  • The formation of the partnership and ceremony can be in any area - not necessarily the area of residence.

What are the differences between Civil Partnerships and Civil Marriage?

  • Ceremonies for civil marriage have developed over time
  • 'Off the shelf' Civil Partnership ceremonies need to be developed
  • Local Authorities could provide ceremonies if there is a demand from the local community with the fees reflecting those charged for civil wedding ceremonies.

What if it does not work out?

There is a dissolution process similar to divorce, insofar as:

  • It is Court Based
  • Division of assets (property), alimony, take into account length of partnership, dependency/contributions, and children - custody etc
  • Grounds (as for marriage except adultery or non-consummation which do not apply to a Civil Partnership
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • By consent after 2 years of separation
  • Without consent after 5 years.

Venues for registration

  • Every local authority must provide premises for Civil Partnerships.
    Click on the links below to find your local registry office:
    North Wales
    Mid Wales
    South West
    South East 
  • From the 5th Dec 2004 approved premises can be used for  civil marriage and civil partnerships.
  • Each Local Authority has a list of  approved premises: these include local authority buildings, hotels, castles etc
  • There is currently no protection under legislation covering goods, facilities and services, therefore private venues can refuse to hold Civil Partnerships ceremonies
  • Have you been refused a venue? - tell us 

What changes will Civil Partnerships make to benefits?

Currently the benefits system only recognises heterosexual relationships, as a result lesbian and gay couples face a number of issues.  Lesbian and gay people whose partner dies are not eligible for bereavement benefits or survivors' pensions, and same-sex partners do not qualify for the adult dependant increases paid in National Insurance benefits such as Retirement Pension and Incapacity Benefit.

The regulations relating to means-tested benefits assume that opposite-sex couples have a duty to maintain each other, but do not make the same assumption about same-sex couples. When someone who is married (or living with someone as if they were married) applies for a means-tested benefit, the means test will take into account the needs and the resources of both partners.

Same-sex partners have been assessed separately until now. Same-sex partner's income and other resources have not been taken into account in working out how much benefit a claimant is entitled to.

This position will change when civil partnerships are implemented. The most important changes will be to pensions. Workers will have the same right to survivors' pensions for their civil partners that they have now for their spouses.

Living together and benefits

Civil partners will be treated in the same way as married couples in calculating entitlement to means-tested benefits. The government plans to replicate the rules about 'living together as husband and wife' for couples living together "as if they were civil partners". The new rules will apply from the date the Civil Partnership Act comes into effect, without any transitional protection.

Social Security - duty to maintain each other

  • Couples generally but not always get lower amount of 'benefits' than single households
  • Child and Working Tax Credits: partner's income will be taken into account - joint claim (now eligible for couple element but may lose out on joint income assessment)
  • There will be a phased introduction with an information campaign. Implementation will follow a benefit review for means-tested benefits: Housing Benefit, Incapacity (will now get adult dependant increases) Tax Credits, etc.
    Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) advise that there will be no financial change until review - 'overpayments' will not be claimed back
  • Couples - will be required to declare  by April 2006
  • Will apply to co-habitees - treated 'same as' 'living together as husband and wife'
  • New claimants will be expected to tell agencies about their living arrangements
  • There will be a DWP information campaign for couples who decide not to register
  • Judgements about who is a couple may be fraught and are likely to provoke a review of whole policy area.

Tax Rules:

  • Swap allowance between partners (Finance Act 2005
  • Automatic inheritance of partner's estate
  • Register death
  • Bereavement Benefits
  • Survivor Pension
  • Exempt from inheritance tax - 40%

Pension Rights

  • Rights given to 'spouses' now apply to Civil Partnerships
  • Pensions rights back dated to 1988
  • Public sector schemes, occupational and state pension
  • No survivor benefit from state or occupational pension where the scheme has never applied to heterosexual co-habitees
  • Private schemes - many will follow/or option to nominate

Nationality and Immigration

Forced Marriage information

The Forced Marriage Unit of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has produced a useful guide to forced marriage for LGBT people. Click here to download the leaflet.

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If you cannot find the information you need on this website, you can call the Stonewall Cymru offices on 029 20 237744 or 01492 622202 or the Stonewall info line on 08000 50 20 20 (Mon-Fri 9:30am - 5:30pm) and we will try to point you in the right direction.