Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Louise Hardman. Understand the difference between a marriage and a civil partnership in the eyes of the law and know your rights. Read on for more details on marriage vs civil partnerships.
These days, there’s more than one way to commit to your partner, a change that’s paving the way for modern families and slowly casting the one-size-fits-all notion of a “normal” couple.
The freedom to make the choice that’s right for you rather than just having it dictated to you is incredibly liberating – but not everyone understands the difference between marriage and a civil partnership in the eyes of the law. We’ll take an in-depth look at both so you can understand exactly what’s involved with each…
Marriage is the traditional union that comes to mind – typically it involves a wedding where the bride and groom stand up and declare their commitment to one another in front of their closest family and friends.
In the legal sense, marriage is a union between a consenting man and woman over the age of 16. In order to be legally married, partners must be of the opposite sex, meet residency conditions, and must not already be married or separated. A marriage is conducted by an authorized celebrant, most commonly a minister of religion or authorized registrant – the marriage register is signed by the couple, celebrant, and two witnesses.
Being married also brings with it legal consequences – married partners can own property together without needing to agree to a contract. The spouse of a British citizen is entitled to a residence permit, and in the event of death, the surviving spouse would not have to pay inheritance tax on their estate.
If the relationship dissolves, the couple will have to legally separate or file for divorce, a process that involves divorce solicitors and can be considerably daunting and emotionally draining for everyone involved. In cases of divorce, the courts have wide powers when it comes to dividing assets, and can even set aside prenuptial agreements.
More recently, governments in England and Scotland have begun taking action to make same-sex marriage legal for couples wishing to declare their commitment to one another, and soon it may be possible for both homosexual and heterosexual couples to be married equally.
Currently in the UK, a civil partnership is available to same sex couples in lieu of marriage. It confers rights virtually identical to civil marriage on same sex couples, and ends only in death, dissolution or annulment.
Same sex couples can register their relationship as a civil partnership thanks to the Civil Partnership Act 2004, a motion that’s been in effect since 21 December 2005. The ground breaking act offered registrants rights similar to heterosexual married couples. Importantly, the act also confers rights to a partner in the event of death or dissolution of the civil partnership.
To be eligible, both partners must be over the age of 16 and not in another marriage or civil partnership, and must have lived in England or Wales for one week. In England and Wales, couples must give notice to the appropriate authorities – this typically involves a 15 day waiting period. In Scotland, no such notice period is necessary. Following this, a civil partnership ceremony is conducted by an authorized celebrant, and the register is signed by the couple, celebrant and two witnesses.
Do you understand the difference between a marriage and a civil partnership?
Author Box: Louise Hardman is a freelance writer who loves to write about love and relationships.
Image credit: Stuart Miles