Converting a civil partnership to a marriage

Same sex couples have been able to have their relationship solidified in law under the Civil Partnership Act 2004. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 came into force on 13 March 2014 marking an important and long-awaited change to the legislation for same sex couples. The Act gave same sex couples in England and Wales, the right to marry with the rights and responsibilities of broadly the same as those of opposite sex marriages.

Many same sex couples who previously formed a civil partnership sought a conversion of the partnership to a marriage. For those who wish to apply for a conversion can do so provided that their civil partnership was registered in England and Wales.

Couples who entered into a same sex marriage abroad do not need to apply for a conversion irrespective of whether that particular country provided for same sex marriage at the time the Act came into force. Those couples will be treated as being married in England and Wales.

Civil partners who wish to apply for a conversion to a same sex marriage must arrange an appointment to attend a register office before the superintendent registrar and provide a list of information about themselves. Provided the information is sufficient and verified by the registrar, the standard procedure to convert the partnership into a marriage should be fairly straightforward taking approximately 30 minutes.

The question for many same sex couples who have formed a civil partnership is why they should apply for a conversion. From a legal position, there are a number of discreet differences between how a civil partner is considered in comparison to a same sex marriage. For example, if a civil partner dies, the pension share that the surviving partner receives will often be lower and for a shorter period than if they were a married couple. This is because the pension entitlement is measured differently and from a different date.

There are also implications such as travelling restrictions for civil partners that do not exist for married couples. For example, in some countries such as Sweden and Argentina, same sex marriage is legal but they do not recognise civil partnerships as marriage.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 provides that all references to marriages, a married couple or a married person in existing England and Wales legislation to include same sex marriages and couples. This does not include civil partners.

However, where the marriage breaks down, same sex married couples cannot rely on the fact of adultery unless that adultery is with a person of the opposite sex. There are also judicial differences when it comes to divorce proceedings in same sex marriage which can become complex.

If you would like further advice on the dissolution of a civil partnership or divorce proceedings in a same sex marriage, our experienced solicitors at Hunter & Uro can guide and advise you through the process. Serving Bedford, Northampton and Milton Keynes, our lawyers can help you with your family law and divorce matters. Contact us for further information and a 30 minute free consultation.

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