Civil Partnerships

Entering into a civil partnership requires as much thought and planning as a marriage regarding the legal implications of what might happen later.

Dissolving a civil partnership is likely to require expert legal involvement, as dividing assets, property, possessions, and working out arrangements for children can be stressful and contentious, rather like during a divorce. 

Whether it’s marriage or a civil partnership, it is important to understand the rights and responsibilities of this legal arrangement. At Edwards Family Law, we can support you through this process and make it as seamless as possible.


What is a Civil Partnership?

A civil partnership is a legally-recognised relationship between two unrelated people. By registering a civil relationship, the couple (who can be same-sex or opposite sex) have additional legal rights and responsibilities. An example of these civil partnership legal rights and responsibilities include home rights and next of kin authority for your partner.

Following the passing of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, civil partnerships were introduced the following year in lieu of same-sex marriage. 

While same-sex marriage in now legal in the UK (and has been since 2014), civil partnerships were the only option for same-sex couples to receive legal recognition for their relationship for almost 10 years. This allowed them to enjoy similar, although not completely identical, legal benefits of marriage. It’s also worth noting that opposite-sex couples could not enter a civil partnership until 31st December 2019 – until this point, their only option was marriage.

Civil partnerships are used by gay couples and unmarried heterosexual couples who are living together (sometimes known as common law man and wife) to bring legal status to the relationship. 

Civil Partnership vs. Marriage: What are the Differences?

Since December 2019, opposite-sex and same-sex couples in the UK can opt for a civil partnership or choose to get married.

Civil partnerships and marriage have more in common than divides them; there is financial provision if separation occurs and rules about tax entitlements and inheritance. However, there are some crucial differences.

In a civil partnership, the legal agreement is entered into by signing a civil partnership agreement. A marriage is contracted by the saying of vows.

It is necessary to get a divorce to end a marriage, whereas a civil partnership ends in dissolution.

A civil partnership can be converted into marriage via a conversion process before a Registrar, called ‘Standard Conversion.’ The marriage certificate is valid from when the civil partnership was initially formed. The couple can then have a religious wedding ceremony if they want to.

Why Would a Straight Couple Want a Civil Partnership?

A civil partnership creates a legal relationship between a man and a woman living together and not married. They may choose a civil partnership over marriage. 

Only same-sex couples were allowed to enter into a civil partnership between 2005 and 2019, and they could also marry. In 2019, the law changed and allowed opposite-sex couples to choose either a marriage or a civil partnership, providing parity with same-sex couples.

A civil partnership provides definition and clarity over rights and responsibilities, especially if the couple chooses to execute a pre-registration agreement.

A pre-registration agreement can set out each party’s rights and obligations towards the other, especially if the relationship breaks down. The agreement can cover arrangements for the children, the family home, financial assets like savings and pensions, and personal possessions.

Each party to the civil partnership must take independent legal advice before making a pre-registration agreement. A pre-registration agreement is not legally binding but can be influential if the relationship breaks down and the civil partnership is dissolved.

The other option for a straight unmarried couple is to execute a living together agreement, sometimes also called a cohabitation agreement.

It records legal rights in certain areas of the relationship and is recognised by the Courts. It can be about ownership of property, children, and jointly owned possessions. This agreement needs to be drawn up with the help of a Solicitor.

What are the Disadvantages of a Civil Partnership?

There are some critical distinctions between marriage and a civil partnership, and it’s essential to understand that they are not the same.

Civil partners do not have the same rights as married couples, although opposite-sex couples will have more rights and protection than if they had remained as cohabitees.

If one party to the civil partnership dies, the surviving partner will only inherit the property if it is left to them; the property does not automatically transfer on death from one to the other.

Ending a Civil Partnership

A civil partnership, like a marriage, can only be ended by applying to the Court (a bit like a divorce) or if one of the parties dies. This process is called dissolution. It’s not possible to apply to the Court unless the civil partnership has lasted for at least twelve months. 

Applications can be made online or by post, and there is a fee of £593. An application to dissolve a civil partnership can be made solely or jointly.

An applicant must confirm that the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down, which means the relationship is permanently over and there is no way back. There is no requirement to explain to the Court why the civil partnership has broken down; this may only be relevant if arrangements are required about the care and custody of any children.

The Court will follow a two-stage process, issuing a conditional order and a final order, similar to how a marriage ends during the divorce process. The whole procedure to dissolve a civil partnership will take at least six months.

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Cohabiting and Unmarried Couples

Free Consultation

We offer a free 45-minute consultation to all qualifying individuals, who have complex cases and want to be represented by our leading family and divorce lawyers. After 45 minutes, please note that our time is charged at our hourly rates.

During a free consultation with our experienced divorce solicitors and family solicitors, you can expect a comprehensive discussion about divorce in the UK (England and Wales). We’ll walk you through the process of how to get a divorce, covering important topics such as the divorce application, laws on divorce and your financial rights and obligations following a divorce.

Our lawyers will provide insight into divorce law, including no-fault divorce, and help you understand the divorce process, including divorce filing and court proceedings. We’ll also discuss the cost of divorce, giving you a clear picture of what to expect financially. Our team of solicitors also can provide comprehensive legal guidance in issues such as child arrangements (also known as “child custody”), spousal support, and property division.

We’re here to assist you in every aspect of getting a divorce or family issue, making the process as smooth and stress-free as possible. Whether you’re seeking advice on family arrangements or need guidance on a divorce consent order our experts in family law are here to help.

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Meet our Lawyers

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Kelly Edwards

Managing Partner

With over 15 years experience in dealing with Complex Family Law matters, Kelly will be able to guide you through any aspect of your case with speed and ease.

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Sarah Hogarth

Senior Associate

Sarah advises clients on all aspects of family law, with a particular focus on resolving complex financial issues for high-net-worth individuals.

Chloë Ashman

Associate Solicitor

Chloë’s legal practice encompasses all aspects of financial remedy, Schedule 1, private children and prenuptial and post nuptial agreements.

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Charlotte Lanning

Associate Solicitor

Charlotte has a vast array of experience in all of the issues that can arise from relationship breakdown with a particular focus on complex financial matters, often with an international dimension

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Isobel Rarok

Associate Solicitor

Isobel is experienced in all aspects of divorce and dealing with High Net Worth and complex financial matters together with advising on pre and post nuptial agreements

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Kate Pooler

Associate Solicitor

Kate advises on all aspects of family law, including divorce, financial remedy, Schedule 1 Children Act cases, pre- and post-nuptial agreements, concerns around behaviour associated with relationship breakdown and all matters relating to co-parenting


Kelly Edwards has brilliant strategic oversight. She’s someone you want in your corner. Charlotte Lanning is incredibly clever and clients love her.

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They are very professional. They provided clear explanation of processes, options and best possible course of action. Good communication. Highly recommended.


I would highly recommend Edwards Family Law. Kelly & Charlotte's service, expertise and knowledge was first class. Really appreciate their advice with my case.


Edwards Family Law provides an excellent service, personally I was in contact with Kelly Edwards, who is very friendly, understandable and punctual with her work. I would highly recommend this service for everyone who deals with family laws.


I have recently used the services of Edwards Family Law and Kelly gave pragmatic advice and made what could have been a very stressful process, streamlined and straightforward. The process was handled diligently and this made for it being both less daunting and inexpensive.


Kelly is great - compassionate but strong and fair in her advice. Can't imagine what a mess I would have been in without her. Excellent experience with Kelly! 


Kelly Edwards is highly knowledgeable and experienced. I highly value her counsel and completely second the previous comment that describe her as 'pragmatic'. Kelly is very efficient, for a fee that is reasonable and fair.