The Law Shop is now closed. Please click here to find out more.

Civil Partnerships and How to Register One

A civil partnership is a legally recognised relationship for same-sex couples. 

Before same-sex marriage was introduced in March 2014, civil partnerships were the only option available to gay couples wishing to register their relationship officially.

Who can register a civil partnership

Eligibility rules for civil partnerships are the same as those for marriage. That is, you and your partner must be:

  • Aged 16 or over (although you may need parental consent if you are 16 or 17)
  • Not already in a civil partnership or married
  • Not close blood relatives, including half-sisters or half-brothers (you can also not marry half-sisters or half-brothers of your parents, or children of your half-sisters or half-brothers)

Those aged 16 and 17 do not need parental consent to enter into a civil partnership in Scotland.

Giving notice

The first thing you must do when registering a civil partnership is to give notice at your local register office. You must have lived in the area for at least the last seven days in order to do this. Even if you are not getting married in the area where you live, you must still go to your local office. The notice of your intention to become civil partners will be displayed for 15 days. Thereafter you will have one year in which to register your civil partnership.

When you go to the register office to give notice, you will need to give your details, i.e. your name, address and nationality. You will need to bring documents to serve as proof of these, such as:

  • passport
  • birth certificate
  • driving licence
  • national identity card
  • immigration status document

If you’ve previously been married or involved in a civil partnership, you will also need proof that your previous marriage or civil partnership has come to an end, i.e. a decree absolute or final order, or death certificate of your former partner. Giving notice will cost £35.

Rules for those subject to immigration control

If you or your partner are from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland and therefore subject to immigration control, you will need to register your civil partnership at a special ‘designated’ register office. When you go to the register office you will need to bring proof of your nationality.

If you or your partner are planning to come to the UK to register your civil partnership then you will need to apply for the appropriate visa or permit, for instance:

  • Those who wish to enter into a civil partnership with a British citizen or someone settled in the UK should apply for a visa to come here as a proposed civil partner
  • Those from outside the EEA coming to form a civil partnership with someone who is from the EEA or Switzerland but not from the UK should apply for an EEA family permit (either if coming to the UK with them or joining them here)
  • If you and your partner are both from outside the EEA and Switzerland and you want to come to the UK to register a civil partnership and leave within six months, you should apply for a Marriage Visitor visa.

Arranging a civil partnership ceremony

You can hold your civil partnership ceremony at any venue which is registered to hold civil weddings. However, religious venues can elect not to hold civil partnership ceremonies.

The exchanging of vows is not compulsory at a civil partnership ceremony, but you can choose to do so if you would prefer. In contrast to marriage, which is solemnised by uttering vows, civil partnerships can be registered by signing the civil partnership document.

There is a fee payable for the ceremony – this will be £45 if you register your civil partnership at a register office, but it may be more expensive at other venues.

In addition, you will have to pay for your civil partnership certificate. The fee for this will be £4 on the day of the ceremony or £7 at a later date. Unlike marriage certificates, which only give the names of the fathers of both parties, civil partnership certificates give the names of both parents.

Registering a civil partnership abroad

If you register your civil partnership abroad, it should be recognised back in the UK provided that you follow the local laws in the country of registration. In some cases you may be asked to obtain certain documents from the UK government. There is also a very useful Getting Married Abroad tool on the government’s website, which is designed to help you find out what is required depending on factors such as where you plan to register your civil partnership, your nationality and that of your partner.

We have also created a separate page on the legalities of getting married, which goes into further detail about the  legal differences between same-sex and heterosexual marriages.