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Registering a civil partnership

What is a civil partnership

A civil partnership is a legal relationship which can be registered by two people of the same sex. If you are in a gay or lesbian relationship, registering a civil partnership will give your relationship legal recognition. This will give you added legal rights, as well as responsibilities.

To register a civil partnership, you and your partner must sign a civil partnership document in front of two witnesses and a registrar.

In some situations, a same-sex couple who have not registered a civil partnership will have the same legal rights and responsibilities as a couple who have registered a civil partnership. This will be the case, for example, when working out your entitlement to welfare benefits and tax credits.

For more information about the rights and responsibilities of same-sex couples, see Rights of same-sex couples in Family fact sheets.

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Who can register a civil partnership

You and your lesbian or gay partner can register a civil partnership as long as all the following circumstances apply:

  • you are both 16 or over. If you are 16 or 17, you will usually have to get written consent from your parents or legal guardians
  • you have lived in the same area in England or Wales for at least seven days
  • neither of you is already either a civil partner, or married
  • you are not close blood relatives.

People aged 16 or 17 and parental consent

If you are 16 or 17, you will need the consent of each parent with parental responsibility and any legal guardian in order to register a civil partnership.

You may not be able to get the consent of your parents, perhaps because you don't know where they are. Or your parents may refuse to give their consent for you to register a civil partnership. If this is the case, you can apply to a court for permission to register your civil partnership. You will need to get legal advice to do this.

For more information about parental responsibility, see Children in Living together and marriage - legal differences.

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How to register a civil partnership

There are two steps needed to register a civil partnership. The first step is to give notice of your intention to register and the second is to actually register the civil partnership.

Giving notice

You and your partner will each need to give notice of your intention to register a civil partnership to the local register office where you live. You must do this in person. You will need to do this even if you are going to register your civil partnership somewhere else. You must have lived in an area for at least seven days before you can give notice there.

When you give notice, you will be asked to give details of the date and place where the civil partnership is to be registered, so you should contact the venue where you are going to register first.

You will also have to give the register office certain personal details. These are your name, your address, your age, your nationality and whether you have been in a civil partnership or married before. You will be asked to provide documentary evidence of these details, for example your passport, your birth certificate, a divorce decree absolute or the death certificate of a former civil partner. If one of you is subject to immigration control, you may have to provide additional documentary evidence - see under heading People subject to immigration control.

Once you have given notice of your intention to register a civil partnership, details from the notice will be made available in a register office for people to see. This will be in the area in which both of you live and the area where you're going to register, if this is different.

The details must be made available for people to see for 15 days before you can register your civil partnership. This is to give an opportunity for objections to be made.

After 15 days, you will be free to register your partnership, as long as there are no objections and no legal reasons why you can't go ahead. The register office must give you a legal document called a civil partnership schedule which you will need in order to register a civil partnership.

You must register within the next twelve months. If you don't register your civil partnership within this period, you will not be able to register unless you start the whole process again.

In some exceptional circumstances, for example, where one of you is seriously ill and not expected to recover, you can ask for the 15-day waiting period to be waived – see under heading Special rules for people who are seriously ill.

The 15-day waiting period can also be waived in some circumstances where one of you has acquired a different gender - see under heading Special rules if one of you has acquired a different gender.

Registration

You can register your civil partnership in any register office or at any venue that has been approved to register civil partnerships. Anywhere that has been approved to hold civil marriages automatically has approval to register civil partnerships. Non-religious venues cannot choose whether to hold civil partnerships or not, if they hold weddings. This would be unlawful discrimination.

A civil partnership can also be registered on religious premises. However, religious organisations are not obliged to host civil partnership ceremonies.

You can search for approved premises on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk. You should check the venue is available before giving notice to register.

You and your partner have legally registered your civil partnership when you have signed a legal document, known as the civil partnership schedule, or a licence if one of you is seriously ill – see under heading Special rules for people who are seriously ill. This must be done in front of a registrar and two witnesses.

There are no further legal requirements and you don't have to have a ceremony, although you can choose to have one if you want. Many local authorities will arrange for a ceremony in addition to the signing of the civil partnership document but they do not have to.  No religious service is allowed at the signing of the civil partnership schedule.If you want a ceremony and the local authority refuses to carry one out, you could:

  • find a register office in another local authority where you can sign the civil partnership schedule and have a ceremony
  • find other approved premises where you can sign the civil partnership schedule and have a ceremony
  • arrange a ceremony somewhere else after signing the civil partnership schedule has taken place at the register office.

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The cost of registering a civil partnership

You will need to pay a fee to give notice of your intention to register a civil partnership and a registration fee. The fee depends upon where you want to register your civil partnership. You should contact the venue for details of the fees.

You get a civil partnership certificate when you register. You will be charged a fee for this. For details of fees, visit the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

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Special rules for housebound people

There are special rules for registering a civil partnership for housebound people. These enable a couple to register at the place where one of them is housebound.

You are considered housebound if a doctor states that, in their opinion, you should not be moved because of disability or illness for at least the next three months.

The procedure for someone who is housebound to register a civil partnership is exactly the same as the usual procedure, with the following exceptions:

  • a doctor's statement must be provided. The doctor's statement must be made no more than 14 days before you give notice and must be on a form provided by the register office
  • you will only have three months, instead of the usual twelve, to register your civil partnership after the 15-day notice period runs out - see under heading How to register a civil partnership.

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Special rules for people who are seriously ill

There are special rules for registering a civil partnership for people who are seriously ill and not expected to recover. These relax the rules for registering a civil partnership in order to speed up the process. This means that you will not have to wait 15 days between giving notice and registering your civil partnership – see under heading How to register a civil partnership. Also, only one of you will need to give notice of your intention to register a civil partnership to the register office. You will need to provide evidence that one of you is seriously ill and not expected to recover, and that they are too ill to be moved.

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Special rules if one of you has acquired a different gender

A person who wants to change their legal gender can do this by obtaining a gender recognition certificate. If you are married, you cannot get a certificate without first ending your existing marriage. However, if you and your former spouse want to go on to form a civil partnership, you can do so as soon as the full gender recognition certificate has been issued. In these circumstances you can give notice and register your civil partnership on the same day. There is no requirement to give a 15 day notice period of registration. For more information about gender recognition, and how to register a civil partnership when one of you has acquired a different gender, visit the Ministry of Justice website at www.justice.gov.uk.

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People subject to immigration control

There are special rules for registering a civil partnership if either you or your partner is subject to immigration control.

You will be subject to immigration control unless you are:

  • a British citizen or someone who has the right to live in the UK, or
  • an EEA national, or
  • someone who doesn't have any conditions attached to your stay in the UK because you are for example, a diplomat, or a member of visiting armed forces.

For more information about who is subject to immigration control, see Help with immigration problems.

If you are subject to immigration control, you and your partner must both give notice to register your civil partnership at a special Register office. Before you will be allowed to give notice, you must have been granted entry clearance to the UK specifically for the purpose of registering a civil partnership in the UK.

Everyone who wants to register a civil partnership in a Register Office must provide proof of their nationality. For more information, go to the UK Border Agency website at www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk.

If the registrar believes that someone is entering into a civil partnership for immigration purposes, they must report this to the UK Border Agency.

If you are subject to immigration control and want to register a civil partnership, you may need to get advice from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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Recognition for partnerships of same-sex couples formed overseas

Some same-sex couples may already have formed a civil union, registered partnership, domestic partnership or a same-sex marriage abroad.

If you are in one of these relationships, you can get automatic recognition in the UK as civil partners and will not need to register in the UK as well. However, you, your partner and your overseas relationship must meet certain conditions.

To find out more about recognition for partnerships of same-sex couples formed overseas, visit www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk.

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Ending a registered civil partnership

Once you have registered a civil partnership, it can only be ended if one of you dies, or by applying to court to bring the partnership legally to an end.

You cannot apply to bring a civil partnership legally to an end until it has lasted for at least one year.

For more information about ending a civil partnership, see Ending a civil partnership.

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