Latest Civil Partnerships News - 5 December 2005
The Civil Partnership Act comes into force on 5 December 2005. From this day gay and lesbian couples can register their intent, at a Register Office, to form a Civil Partnership. Partnership ceremonies are allowed from 21 December 2005.
See this page and Civil Partnership and what it means to you.
Latest Civil Partnerships News - November 2005
The Women and Equality Unit has issued their November e-bulletin.
This brief e-bulletin has only one topic:
- Civil partnership and older people
Civil Partnership and Older People
This guide covers the following items:
SPECIAL ARRANGMENTS FOR REGISTERING A CIVIL PARTNERSHIP
- In event of a serious illness
- When a person is housebound/cannot be moved
- Capacity to register
RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITES
- Social security, tax credits
- Tenancy rights
- People in care homes
- Next of kin
IF A CIVIL PARTNER DIES
- Death registration
- Family provision
- Life assurance
Details on each of the above topics are contained in the Women and Equality Unit's Civil Partnership Guide.
For more information see the Women and Equality Unit's Civil Partnership web page.
Civil Partnership Leaflets and Guides
Don't forget that the Unit has also produced a number of new guides and leaflets. These can all be downloaded from this website by clicking on the links below (all files in Adobe PDF format):
The Civil Partnership Act is revolutionary new legislation in the UK which allows gay and lesbian couples, who decide to register their same-sex partnerships, to be able to enjoy the same legal and financial advantages that married couples have always enjoyed. It will be “gay marriage” in all but name.
The full text of the Civil Partnership Act can be viewed from the HMSO website at:
The financial advisers at Isis Financial Planners have consistently campaigned for this important legislation and were involved in ensuring that the Civil Partnership Act gave proper treatment to important financial issues in the Act, such as Inheritance Tax, pensions, Wills, etc. (See our History of the Civil Partnership Act).
These web pages tell you what Civil Partnerships are, the procedure to adopt in registering a Civil Partnership and the important considerations that you need to think about, carefully, before deciding whether to register.
What is Civil Partnership?
To answer this, we refer to the website of the Government department that made the Civil Partnership Act possible, the “Women and Equality Unit” of the Department of Trade and Industry. Their website offers this explanation:
“The Act creates a new legal relationship of civil partnership, which two people of the same-sex can form by signing a registration document. It also provides same-sex couples who form a civil partnership with parity of treatment in a wide range of legal matters with those opposite-sex couples who enter into a civil marriage.
Important rights and responsibilities will flow from forming a civil partnership, helping same-sex couples to organise their lives together. Provisions in the Act 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.”
Civil Partnerships, available in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, offer gay and lesbian couples a huge step forward on the road to equality. BUT with these rights come many obligations, and you should very carefully consider whether forming a civil partnership is the right thing for you. We discuss the implications of registering a civil partnership later in this document.
Civil Partnerships – who is eligible?
UK civil partnerships are available to couples who are:
- both of the same sex
- not already in a civil partnership or marriage
- 16 years of age or older
- not within the prohibited degrees of relationship.
In England and Wales and Northern Ireland, individuals who are aged 16 and 17 will have to obtain the written consent of their parent(s) or legal guardian(s) before forming a civil partnership. In Scotland individuals aged 16 or over will be able to register their partnership without the need for parental consent. This is also the rule, in Scotland, for opposite-sex couples who marry.
The prohibited degrees of relationship can be found in Schedule 1 to the Civil Partnership Act for England and Wales, Schedule 10 for Scotland and Schedule 12 for Northern Ireland. These Schedules list the people who, due to the closeness of their relationship with each other, are prohibited from forming a civil partnership with each other or, in certain cases, who are prohibited from forming a civil partnership with each other unless certain conditions are met (for example, adoptive child, adoptive parent, child, grandparent, sibling, etc.).
The Civil Partnership Act also recognises a number of same-sex partnerships legally recognised in other countries. If your partnership is registered under one of these recognised schemes you do not need to register under the UK’s civil partnerships arrangements – you will automatically be treated as having formed a civil partnership. The list of schemes currently recognised is listed in Schedule 20 of the Civil Partnership Act, and will be reviewed periodically or as other partnership schemes are brought into legislation. See Overseas Relationships, below.
The Civil Partnership Registration Process
Civil partnerships are allowed from 5 December 2005, but due to the 15 day “cooling off” period actual registrations will not be able to be made until 21 December 2005.
The simple steps to undertaking a civil partnership are as follows:
You need to give formal notice of your intention to form a civil partnership, in person, at your local register office (you have to give notice of civil partnership at a register office in the area(s) where you have resided for at least 7 days). This involves both of you (but can be at different times) providing proof of identity and stating that you are eligible to form a civil partnership (see above). You will be asked where you want to undertake your registration – this will have to be a place approved by a register office - and on what date. If the venue is outside of your area of residence you still need to give notice within your area and the register office will ask where you are being registered – therefore, you must have arranged this, first of all, with the local authority where the registration is to happen. The actual date of your civil partnership has to be at least 15 days after the formal notification.
You can search for your local register office on the website of the “General Register Office” at: http://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/ , or look in your telephone directory or Yellow Pages (under "Registration of Births,Deaths & Marriages").
After the formal notice, there is a 15 day “cooling off period”! During this time, the register office personnel will check that the two of you are eligible to register. Details from the notice will also be available in the register office for public inspection (as for marriage) but the details will not include you or your partner’s address. This will allow for any objections to be made – just as in heterosexual marriage.
On the big day you attend the register office (or other agreed approved premises). There will be a number of formalities to go through (these are still being formalised) and you are formally entered into a civil partnership when your two signatures have been made in the paper register. This is different from heterosexual marriage, as their relationship is recognised in law as soon as the verbal vows have been exchanged.
In addition to the formal registration procedure you can elect to have a ceremony, however, 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. Otherwise the ceremony is up to you and your register office may be able to help you organise this. This can include, readings, music, pledges to each other, exchange of rings or other gifts, etc.
You are then recognised, in law, as "civil partners" and will be able to enjoy all of the rights that come with this and have all of the obligations to fulfil.
The Women and Equality Unit website also makes this special note: “There are special procedures for forming a civil partnership when one of the couple is seriously ill and not expected to recover; or is detained in a hospital or prison; or when one of the parties are subject to UK immigration control (see section 4 of this FAQ). Also, different procedures apply for two people who were formerly married to each other, where one of them has changed gender and they wish to quickly form a form a civil partnership with each other.”
“Overseas Relationships” & Civil Partnerships
The Civil Partnership Act allows couples legally registered in certain other countries to be recognised in the UK.
The Civil Partnership Act currently (November 2005) recognises:
- Andorra - unio estable de parella (stable union of pairs)
- Australia: Tasmania - significant relationship
- Belgium cohabitation légale, wettelijke samenwoning, gesetzliches zusammenwohnen (statutory cohabitation)
- Belgium marriage
- Canada - marriage
- Canada: Nova Scotia domestic partnership
- Canada: Quebec - union civile, civil union
- Denmark - registreret partnerskab (registered partnership)
- Finland - rekisteröity parisuhde registrerad partnerskap (registered partnership)
- France pacte civile de solidarité (civil solidarity pact)
- Germany Lebenspartnerschaft (life partnership)
- Iceland staðfesta samvist (confirmed cohabitation)
- Luxembourg - partenariat enregistré, eingetragene partnerschaft (registered partnership)
- Netherlands geregistreerde partnerschap (registered partnership)
- Netherlands marriage
- New Zealand - civil union
- Norway - registrert partnerskap (registered partnership)
- Sweden - registrerat partnerskap (registered partnership)
- United States of America: California – domestic partnership
- United States of America: Connecticut – civil union
- United States of America: Maine – domestic partnership
- United States of America: Massachusetts - marriage
- United States of America: New Jersey – domestic partnership
- United States of America: Vermont civil union
The Women and Equality Unit website very helpfully states, “New relationships will be added to Schedule 20 as more countries or territories bring in gay marriage or civil partnership schemes. Recent developments include civil union legislation in New Zealand and Connecticut (USA) and same-sex marriage legislation in Spain and Canada. These and any other new overseas schemes will now be considered for inclusion in Schedule 20.”
The Women and Equality Unit have also now included a lot of new information on their website with regard to immigration issues of civil partnerships.
Breakdown of Civil Partnerships - “Dissolution” not “Divorce”
The Civil Partnership Act also covers, in detail, what happens if a registered Civil Partnership falls apart. This has just as serious consequences as the divorce of heterosexuals: it is Court based and all the usual determinations made in a divorce will have to be made in a Civil Partnership dissolution: splitting of assets, etc.
"Can I change my name"
The Government has issued guidance (included in the Civil Partnership advice to employers), that some people may want to change their names following their registration (or even hyphenate their names). The Women and Equality website reports that organisations 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 they encourage employers and companies to also follow this approach.
Civil Partnership –is it right for you?