Same-sex marriage is recognised in England, Scotland and Wales but will not take effect in Northern Ireland until 2020.

Prior to same-sex marriage becoming legal, same-sex couples could only enter into a civil partnership which has almost the same legal status as a marriage for mixed sex couples. Same-sex couples now have a choice as to whether they wish to marry or enter into a civil partnership.

What are the differences?

The Ceremony
Unlike a conventional marriage, there are no religious connotations attached to civil partnerships making them a desirable option for those who want to legally recognise their relationship but do not wish to have a religious ceremony

Marriage certificates only include the names of the fathers of the parties whereas a civil partnership certificate includes the names of both parents of the parties

Marriages are registered on papers whereas civil partnerships are recorded in an electronic register

End of the Relationship
Marriage is ended by a divorce and obtaining a decree absolute whereas a civil partnership is ended by a dissolution order

How do I enter into a civil partnership/same-sex marriage?

Whatever your chosen route, you and your partner will give notice to your local vicar or registrar where you wish to have the ceremony. You must have been living in the area for at least 7 days.

A civil partnership is formed by signing a civil partnership document. You can choose to incorporate a ceremony which might include vows, readings and music but it is not possible to include any religious content. There is no legal obligation as to the wording used. The civil partnership is formed by signing a civil partnership document.

In a marriage ceremony, a pre-determined set of words is used before signing the marriage register in the presence of two witnesses.

How can Wheldon Law help?

The considerations for entering into a civil partnership or a same-sex marriage are the same as those considering any cohabitation or marriage and you may wish to consider entering into a pre-nuptial agreement or a cohabitation agreement.

Ending a civil partnership/same-sex marriage

The procedure for ending a same-sex marriage is the same as for ending a mixed-sex marriage.

The procedure for ending a civil partnership differs slightly in that the grounds are the same as for divorce but the relationship is dissolved by the court.

Our expert family solicitors can advise you and guide you through the whole divorce/separation procedure and work hard to obtain the best possible financial settlement for you. If you are considering a divorce or separation, please call us on 01442 242999 or email us at for free initial telephone advice.