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Civil Partnerships

Planning 101 • 18th October 2013
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Civil Partnerships are legal relationships, exclusively for same sex couples. Use this Timeless Advice in order to answer any questions you may have!

How are Civil Partnerships different from marriage?

There are a small number of differences between civil partnerships and marriage. For example, a civil marriage is formed when the couple exchange spoken words. In a Civil Partnership, the schedule needs to be signed and witnessed for the partnership to be formed. Formation of a Civil Partnership, between same sex couples, is only legally recognised by civil procedure.

Who is eligible?

The couple must both be of the same sex, over the age of 16 and not already married or in a Civil Partnership. In England and Wales, individuals who are 16 and 17 will have to obtain written consent from their parents or guardians, before they can register for a Civil Partnership.

Where can I register my Civil Partnership?

The range of places you can register your Civil Partnership will be broadly similar to those available for civil marriage. A Timeless Advice article that you may be interested in reading is ‘Civil Weddings,’ where much the same information can be used.

For example, you can register your partnership at a register office or an area of approved premises. Some churches will accept your partnership too, but this is dependent on the vicar or minister.

What formal requirements have to be met before the partnership can take place?

Civil PartnershipYou and your partner will need to each give notice in the area(s) where you have resided for at least 7 days. When you each give notice, you will be asked to give the date and place of where the civil partnership registration is to take place so these details will need to have been first agreed with the local authority where the registration is going to take place.

Example: If you live in Redditch and your partner lives in Birmingham, but you want to register a Civil Partnership in a hotel in Warwickshire, you will have to give notice to your local register office in Redditch and your partner at Birmingham Register Office. When you give this notice, you will both have to be able to give the date and place where the Civil Partnership is to be registered, which means that you will have to have arranged this already with the venue and the relevant Warwickshire Register Office which is responsible for the venue!

What documents will I need?

In order to give your notice you will be asked to produce documents as evidence of name, age and residency. For example, birth certificate or passport, utility bill/bank statement. This list is not exhaustive and other documents may also be acceptable.

If you have been previously married you will be required to provide evidence of the termination of that marriage, by death, divorce or nullity. If you have changed your name by deed poll or statutory declaration you will be required to produce that document.

Each party to the partnership will be required to declare their nationality to enable the Superintendent Registrar to advise you whether any further administrative procedure or legal requirements are needed to ensure the recognition of your partnership in the country in which you are a National.

What is the waiting period for a Civil Partnership?

There will be a 15 day waiting period once each person has given notice of intention to register, before the Civil Partnership can be registered. There will be procedures in place to reduce the 15 day waiting period in exceptional circumstances where there are compelling reasons to do so.

It will also be possible for a Civil Partnership to be registered at the residence of someone who is housebound, detained or seriously ill and not expected to recover.

There are procedures to allow couples to form a Civil Partnership quickly in the cases of former spouses, one of whom has changed gender under the provisions of the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

What time of day can a Civil Partnership be registered?

Civil Partnerships can only be registered between 8am and 6pm (as is the case for marriage). However, where one of the couple is seriously ill and not expected to recover, then the Civil Partnership may be formed at any time.

What information will be made public about my Civil Partnership? When you give notice of your intention to register a Civil Partnership, details from the notice will be available in a register office for public inspection (as for marriage), but the details will not include the address of you or your partner.

It is important that these details are publicly available during the 15 days waiting period, to allow for objections to be made, just as is the case for marriage.  

What happens at a Civil Partnership registration?

A Civil Partnership will be registered once the couple has signed the civil partnership document in the presence of a registrar and two witnesses.

There will be words printed on the document which the couple will be able to say at the time of signing the document. Civil partnership registration is an entirely secular process, and the Civil Partnership Act prevents any religious service from taking place during the statutory steps leading to the formation of a civil partnership.

You will be able to arrange a ceremony in addition to the signing of the legal document, if you wish, but a ceremony is not required under the act. Therefore, the decision is all yours!

Can we change our names after registering a Civil Partnership?

After registering a civil partnership, some people might want to change their surname to that of their partner, or a couple may choose to hyphenate their names. Government departments and agencies such as the Passport Agency and the DVLA, will accept Civil Partnership certificates in the same way that they accept marriage certificates as evidence for changing names.

And finally… Civil Partnership etiquette

If you have not been a guest at a Civil Partnership ceremony before you may be concerned about what to expect, but rest assured, the couple will create the perfect day that is right for them, and all you have to do is follow their lead. The rule of thumb is to act as you would at any wedding and go with the flow.

The couple will set the scene and will incorporate as many or as few of the traditional procedures to make the day “their own”. If it has been a long journey to get to where they are they might want to rejoice even more that they have made it or, they may decide to keep things mellow by avoiding too much fuss. Their invitation will be an indication of what you may expect.

A usual worry is how to address the card. If you are unsure, opt for first names, which is more personal anyway. Alternatively, “partner” and “happy couple” are a safe bet.

Another common question is, “Do I congratulate their parents?” The answer is “Yes”. However, if you know that there have been problems with parents or family, then it might be best to greet them saying how happy you are to be a part of the occasion and just leave it at that - politeness never hurts!

If you do not agree with civil partnerships remember that everyone is entitled to his or her own beliefs and this applies to the couple too. Their ceremony will be very personal and unique to them and by affirming their commitment in front of family and friends. The couple will want everyone to witness and appreciate the choices they made to get to this point. The important thing is, as with any couple “tying the knot”, that they “found” each other and want you to share in their celebration. So, just like them, be excited for what lies ahead!

Other Timeless Advice you might like to read:
‘Your Honeymoon’
‘Alternative Weddings’