Accessibility Options Printer friendly Email us Contact us

Civil Partnership Act [E/NI/S/W]

The purpose of the Civil Partnership Act is to enable same-sex couples to obtain legal recognition of their relationship by forming a civil partnership which they may do by registering as civil partners of each other provided:

  • They are of the same sex

  • They are not already in an existing civil partnership or lawfully married

  • They are not within the prohibited degrees of relationships

  • They are both over the age of eighteen or are over sixteen and have consent of the appropriate people or bodies (in England and Wales and Northern Ireland) or are sixteen or over in Scotland
Forming a civil partnership will have legal consequences. The civil partners will assume legal rights and responsibilities with regard to each other and to third parties, including the state.



Coverage: The Bill covers all four nations

Background

On 30th June 2003 the Government published a consultation paper, Civil Partnership: a framework for the legal recognition of same-sex couples, setting out its proposals for a civil partnership. After a three-month consultation period, during which over three thousand responses were received, a report summarising the consultation findings was published in November 2003.

An intention to bring forward a Civil Partnership Bill was announced in the Queen's Speech on 26th November 2004.

On 10th September 2003, the Scottish Executive announced that in the event that civil partnership registration was introduced in England and Wales, same-sex couples should similarly be able to form a civil partnership in Scotland in order to access a comprehensive package of rights and responsibilities in both reserved and devolved areas. The Scottish Executive proposed seeking the agreement of the Scottish Parliament to the inclusion of Scottish provisions in a future Westminster Civil Partnership Bill. The Scottish Executive published a consultation document on 30th September and an analysis of consultation responses was published on 5th February 2004. The Executive subsequently reaffirmed its intention to introduce civil partnership in Scotland, if it were introduced in England and Wales, and to seek the agreement of the Scottish Parliament to the inclusion of Scottish provisions in a Westminster Bill.

Northern Ireland Office Ministers set out their policy intentions on civil partnership in their consultation document, published on 19th December 2003. In it they announced that they supported the introduction of civil partnership in Northern Ireland and for this to be legislated for in the Westminster Bill. The consultation period closed on 5th March 2004. Northern Ireland Office Ministers have decided to take the proposal forward and establish a civil partnership registration scheme for Northern Ireland by means of the inclusion of the necessary legislative provisions in the Civil Partnership Bill.

Structure of the Bill

The Bill is in 8 parts and has 22 schedules:

Part 1 introduces the key features of civil partnership

Part 2 sets out the arrangements for civil partnerships in England and Wales
  • Chapter 1 makes provision for the formation of a civil partnership by registration

  • Chapter 2 makes provision for the dissolution of a civil partnership, nullity and other proceedings

  • Chapter 3 makes provision for property and financial arrangements

  • Chapter 4 sets out the effect of agreeing to form a civil partnership

  • Chapter 5 covers issues relating to children

  • Chapter 6 covers other miscellaneous provisions
Part 3 sets out the arrangements for civil partnerships in Scotland
  • Chapter 1 deals with formation and eligibility

  • Chapter 2 makes provision for the formation of a civil partnership

  • Chapter 3 makes provision relating to occupancy rights and tenancies

  • Chapter 4 makes provision for interdicts

  • Chapter 5 makes provision for the dissolution of a civil partnership, separation and nullity

  • Chapter 6 covers other miscellaneous provisions and matters of interpretation
Part 4 makes provision for civil partnerships in Northern Ireland
  • Chapter 1 makes provision for the formation of a civil partnership

  • Chapter 2 makes provisions for declarations

  • Chapter 3 covers other supplementary provisions
Part 5 deals with civil partnerships formed or dissolved abroad
  • Chapter 1 makes provision for registration outside the UK under Order in Council

  • Chapter 2 makes provision for which overseas relationships are to be treated as civil partnerships

  • Chapter 3 sets out the jurisdiction of the courts in relation to dissolution etc. and makes provision for recognition of dissolutions etc in other parts of or outside the UK

  • Chapter 4 covers other miscellaneous and supplementary matters
Part 6 deals with relationships arising through civil partnership

Part 7 contains miscellaneous provisions

Part 8 contains supplementary material such as powers to make regulations and orders, commencement and extent.

Note

Much of the Bill deals with amendments to existing legislation to bring it into line with civil partnerships being given the same recognition in law as marriage. These amendments are too numerous to detail here but can be found in the Bill and accompanying Explanatory Notes.

Many of the regulations around civil partnerships mirror those that relate to marriage across the UK.

Commentary on selected clauses

We cover only selected clauses here for a full explanation please refer to the Bill and accompanying Explanatory Notes.

Part 1 - Clause 1: Civil Partnership

This clause establishes civil partnership as a legal relationship between two people of the same sex. Subsection (1) provides for a civil partnership to be formed in either of two ways. The first is when two people register as civil partners of each other, either in the United Kingdom (under the relevant Part of the Bill) or under an Order in Council made under clause 150 or 151 (which allow for registration overseas at British consulates or by armed forces personnel).

The second is where the couple register an 'overseas relationship' which is treated as a civil partnership under Chapter 2 of Part 5. Subsection (3) provides that a civil partnership only ends on death, dissolution or annulment. The criteria for what constitutes an 'overseas relationship' are set out in clauses 152 to 154.

Part 2 - Civil Partnerships: England and Wales

Clause 3: Eligibility - This clause provides that a couple is not eligible to register as civil partners of each other if:
  • They are not of the same sex

  • Either of them is already in a subsisting civil partnership or marriage

  • Their relationship falls within the prohibited degrees of relationship listed in Schedule 1 to the Bill

  • Either one of them is under 16 years of age
The prohibited degrees of partnership

Absolute prohibitions - Two people are within prohibited degrees of relationship if one falls within the list below in relation to the other.

Adoptive child
Adoptive parent
Child
Former adoptive child
Former adoptive parent
Grandparent
Grandchild
Parent
Parent's sibling
Sibling
Sibling's child

In the list 'sibling' means a brother, sister, half-brother or half-sister.

There are also qualified prohibitions of relationship allowing for certain people to enter into a civil partnership if, and only if, a certain thing happens.

Clause 4: Parental etc. consent where the proposed civil partner is under 18 - This clause sets out the provisions requiring consent where a person wishing to enter into a civil partnership is under 18 years of age. Schedule 2 identifies the appropriate persons or bodies who may give consent.

Subsection (3) provides an exception to the requirement of consent where a civil partner has been bereaved and wishes to register a subsequent civil partnership before he or she is 18. Subsection (5) defines 'child' for the purpose of Part 2 as a person who is under 18 (except where the term is used to express a relationship).

Clause 68: Wills, administration of estates and family provision - This clause states that Schedule 4 contains provisions amending Acts relating to wills, the administration of estates and family provision to give the same treatment to civil partners as exist for married people.

Clause 69: Financial relief for civil partners and children of the family - This clause introduces Schedule 5, which makes provision for financial relief for civil partners which corresponds to the relief available to married couples in the High Court or a county court under Part 2 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 when they go through divorce, nullity or judicial separation proceedings.

Chapter 5 - Children

This Chapter makes various amendments to the Children Act 1989 and the Adoption and Children Act 2002 to reflect the creation of the new status of civil partnership.

Clause 72: Parental responsibility, children of the family and relatives - This clause amends various provisions of the Children Act 1989 ('the Children Act') to include civil partners in a way that corresponds to the provisions that apply to married couples.

Subsection (2) amends section 4A (1) of the Children Act to enable a civil partner to acquire parental responsibility of their civil partner's child in the same way as a person who is married to the parent of the child (but is not that child's parent).

Subsection (3) amends the definition of 'child of the family' in section 105 (1) of the Children Act to include a child of both civil partners and any other child who has been treated as a child of the family by both civil partners, unless the child had been placed with the civil partners by a local authority or a voluntary organisation as foster parents.

Subsection (4) amends the definition of 'relative' in section 105 (1) of the Children Act to replace 'by affinity' with 'by marriage or civil partnership'.

Clause 73: Guardianship - This clause amends section 6 of the Children Act in relation to the revocation and disclaimer of appointments of guardians. Under section 5 (3) and (4) of the Children Act a parent or guardian may appoint any person to act as the guardian of a child in his or her place. This clause inserts a provision into section 6 of the Children Act so that where a person appoints his or her civil partner to be the guardian of a child that appointment is revoked if the civil partnership is dissolved or annulled, unless the appointment itself indicates that the dissolution or annulment of the civil partnership should not affect the appointment.

Clause 74: Entitlement to apply for a residence or contact order - This clause amends section 10 (5) of the Children Act to add a civil partner in a civil partnership to the class of people who are able to apply for a residence or contact order. The amendment enables civil partners to apply for an order whether or not the civil partnership subsists.

Clause 75: Financial provision for children - This Clause amends Schedule 1 to the Children Act by adding to the definition of periodical payment orders in paragraph 2(6) of that Schedule orders under the provisions of Parts 1 and 8 of Schedule 5 and under Schedule 6 to this Bill. This will enable courts to make orders for periodical payments to be made from one civil partner to the other or to a child of the family, or to a particular person for the benefit of a child of the family.

Subsection (3) amends Paragraph 15 (2) to Schedule 1 of the Children Act so that a local authority will not be able to make a contribution towards the maintenance of a child who is subject to a residence order where the person with whom the child is living is a parent of the child, or the husband or wife or civil partner of a parent of the child.

Subsection (4) extends the meaning of 'parent' in paragraph 16(2) of Schedule 1 to the Children Act to include any civil partner in a partnership, whether it is still in existence or whether it has been brought to an end, for whom the child concerned is a child of the family.

Clause 76: Adoption - This clause amends the Adoption and Children Act 2002 ('the 2002 Act') to ensure that the status of civil partnerships are recognised for the purposes of adoption.

Subsection (2) inserts an additional sub-section in section 47 of the 2002 Act so that an adoption order cannot be made in respect of any person who is in a civil partnership or has been in a civil partnership.

Subsection (3) amends section 51(1) of the 2002 Act to allow for an adoption order to be made on the application of one person where that person is over the age of 21 years and is not married or is not a civil partner.

Subsection (4) inserts an additional sub-section in section 51 of the 2002 Act to set out the circumstances where one member of a civil partnership may apply for an adoption order on their own and not as a couple. The circumstances are: where their civil partner either cannot be found; they have separated and are living apart, and the separation is likely to be permanent or the person's civil partner is incapable of making an application for an adoption order because of physical or mental ill-health.

Subsection (5) amends section 64 of the 2002 Act to include a civil partnership. Section 64(5) enables fees to be prescribed in respect of persons who apply to the adoption agency under sections 60, 61 or 62 for information. The exception is that the adopted person cannot be charged in respect of any information disclosed to him about any person who but for his adoption would be related to him by blood, including half-blood, marriage or civil partnership.

Subsection (6) amends section 74(1) of the 2002 Act to ensure that the status conferred as a consequence of an adoption order does not apply for the purposes of either Schedule 1 to the Civil Partnership Bill (prohibited degrees of relationship) or Schedule 1 to the Marriage Act 1949.

Subsection (7) amends section 79(7) of the 2002 Act to ensure that an adopted person who intends to enter into a civil partnership can apply to the Registrar General for him to check that the person, with whom the applicant intends to enter a civil partnership, does not fall within the prohibited degrees.

Subsection (8) amends section 81 of the 2002 Act to ensure that the meaning of 'relative' for the purposes of an entry in the adoption contact register includes a person related by civil partnership.

Subsection (9) ensures that the meaning of 'relative' in section 98 of the 2002 Act includes a person related by civil partnership. Section 98 of the 2002 Act amplifies the regulation-making power in section 9 to provide that the appropriate Minister may make regulations in connection with adoptions made before the commencement of sections 56 to 65. Section 98(1) of the 2002 Act provides that regulations may make provision for assisting adults adopted before the appointed day to obtain information about their adoption and to facilitate contact between them and their relatives.

Subsection (10) extends the meaning of 'relative' in relation to a child in section 144(1) of the 2002 Act to include people related by civil partnership as well as by marriage. Section 144 of the 2002 Act provides general interpretation.

Subsection (11) amends the definition (for the purposes of that Act) of 'couple' in section 144(4) of the 2002 Act to include two people who are civil partners of each other. With the amendment made by the Civil Partnership Bill, a couple means a married couple, two people who are civil partners of each other, or two people, whether of different sexes or of the same sex, living as partners in an enduring family relationship.

Part 3 - Civil Partnerships: Scotland

Clause 81: Formation of civil partnership by registration - This clause provides that a civil partnership is formed when both persons sign the completed Civil Partnership Schedule before two witnesses aged 16 years or over and an authorised registrar (all being present). Registering as civil partners of each other creates the legal relationship between the two persons, but registration cannot take place unless both persons are eligible to be registered.

Clause 82: Eligibility - This clause provides that a couple are not eligible to register as civil partners if they are not of the same sex, or if either one of them is already in a subsisting civil partnership or marriage, or either of them is under 16 or is incapable of understanding the nature of civil partnership. Provision is made that a couple are not eligible to register as civil partners if they are connected within the prohibited degrees of relationship as set out in Schedule 10 to the Bill, with certain exceptions depending on the degree of relationship by affinity and the detailed requirements being met. Subsections (5) to (7) apply the provisions of this section and Schedule 10, with appropriate modifications, to the case of a person wishing to form a civil partnership in his acquired gender under the Gender Recognition Bill.

Chapter 2 - Registration

The UK has three Registrars General covering Scotland, Northern Ireland and England and Wales. The law concerning registration in Scotland is devolved to the Scottish Parliament. There is separate legislation covering the functions of the Registrar General for Scotland. Consequently, the provisions on Civil Partnerships reflect (and are internally consistent with) the legislation and procedures that apply in Scotland.

Further Information

  1. Civil Partnership Bill - Explanatory Notes
  2. Civil Partnership Bill