Civil Partnerships & Same Sex Marriage

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Civil Partnership & Same Sex Marriage Solicitors in Manchester & Stockport

At Clifford Johnston & Co, we understand the particular issues faced by same sex couples and can offer personalised legal advice concerning civil partnership and same sex marriage.  When a couple share a home, life and family together, they often want to make a commitment to each other which offers their relationship legal recognition and security. Same sex couples have the choice, in the same way as heterosexual couples, to register their relationship as either a civil partnership or a same sex marriage.

Civil partnerships came into force in the UK in 2005, allowing same sex couples to form partnerships similar to a marriage. In 2013 the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act finally allowed same sex couples to marry on almost exactly the same terms as heterosexual marriages.

The benefits of entering into a marriage or partnership include:

  • the right to be recognised as your legal partner’s next of kin
  • the right to take on Parental Responsibility for any children in the family
  • joint assessment of household income
  • equal treatment in tax, benefits, insurance and pension schemes.

There are slight differences in the way the law treats civil partnerships differently to same sex marriage – our legal team specialise in both and have extensive experience of offering expert advice to same sex couples.

How can Clifford Johnston & Co help?

At Clifford Johnston & Co, we have extensive experience of advising same sex couples on a range of issues relating to civil partnerships and same sex marriage. We can help you with planning and legal documentation prior to entering into a union, and we have the skills that you need if you find yourself having to end a relationship, either through dissolution or divorce.

We can help with issues relating to:

  • prenuptial agreements
  • converting civil partnerships into marriages
  • parental responsibility
  • financial disputes and the sharing of equity
  • financial provision for children.

If you need legal advice relating to any of these issues, contact our friendly team today. We will listen to you, ensuring that we fully understand your situation, and will talk you through your options, offering helpful and supportive advice tailored to your needs.

What is a civil partnership?

A civil partnership is a legal relationship which can be entered into by either heterosexual or same sex couples. It offers security to same sex families by giving them legal recognition, and similar rights and protections to married couples. Since December 2005, same sex couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships in the UK. Once in a civil partnership, like with a marriage, it can only be ended if one partner dies, or by applying to the court to have the partnership dissolved in the case of a relationship breakdown.

There are legal differences between a civil partnership and a marriage and it’s important to understand the implications when deciding which is right for you. You may wish to take some advice before entering into a civil partnership to fully understand how it will affect you legally. At Clifford Johnston we are experts in advising clients on the legal issues surrounding civil partnerships and same sex marriages – we can offer advice on family law, pre-partnership agreements and financial matters.  Whatever your needs – we’re here to help.

What is a same sex marriage?

Since the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act of 2013 came into force, same sex marriages offer couples the same legal status as heterosexual marriages, with all of the same rights and obligations. The only difference between a same sex and a heterosexual marriage is that in the event of a divorce, adultery can’t be used as legal grounds in a same sex relationship.

What is the difference between a civil partnership and a same sex marriage?

A married same sex couple have the same rights and obligations as a heterosexual married couple. A couple in a civil partnership have almost the same rights, but there are a few differences between a civil partnership and a marriage. There are also a number of reasons that make marriage more beneficial than a partnership:

  • Legally, civil partners cannot describe themselves as married, and in certain countries the legality of a civil partnership is not recognised. (Married couples are also not able to describe themselves as civil partners.)
  • Currently, on the death of a spouse, the surviving partner is entitled to a share of their pension, in the same way as in a heterosexual marriage. A civil partner is only entitled to a share of the pension based on contributions made since 2004 or 1988 (depending on whether the pension is private or public sector).
  • The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 enables couples to remain married where one party has received a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). Prior to the act, if one person in a heterosexual marriage obtained a GRC, their marriage was no longer recognised.

Since the Married (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, civil partners have had the right to convert their partnership into a marriage if they wish.

Converting a same sex civil partnership into a marriage.

Couples who have previously entered into a same sex civil partnership may find that they would prefer to convert their partnership into a marriage. Fortunately, this is relatively straightforward to do; it involves making an appointment at the local register office to sign a “conversion into marriage” declaration.  Alternatively, the conversion of relationship status can be done as part of a ceremony.

Safeguarding your assets

Entering into a civil partnership or a marriage will affect your financial situation, so it can be prudent to seek advice about your assets before making the commitment. A pre-nuptial agreement, or a pre-civil partnership agreement may help to protect any assets or business interests in the event of the breakdown of a relationship and the division of assets that follows.

Whilst not legally binding, an agreement prior to a marriage or partnership can help both partners to understand their financial position, and setting down intentions in writing at the start of the relationship can help the courts to make a determination in the event of the relationship ending.

Speak to us if you have any concerns about the effect of your partnership or marriage on your assets.  Our experts offer fair and impartial financial advice to couples entering civil partnership and will help you to protect yourself financially.

What happens if a relationship break down?

In the event of the breakdown of a relationship, there are legal steps to be taken if a couple wish to end their civil partnership or marriage.

Dissolving a civil partnership

Legally, a Civil Partnership cannot be dissolved within the first 12 months. A separation order can be applied for if a civil partnership has lasted less than a year, or one partner does not agree to end it. After 12 months, an application for a dissolution order can be made, which is a similar process to applying for a divorce.

Just as with the end of a marriage, ending a civil partnership may need arrangements to be made in regard to finances, property and children. Clifford Johnston & Co employ experienced and specialist family law solicitors who are here to advise you on all the issues involved in dissolving a civil partnership.


There are certain conditions that must be met in order for a civil partnership to be legal. If you find that your civil partnership is not legal (because one partner was already married or in a civil partnership, for example) then you can apply to have your partnership annulled. If you want to have your partnership annulled, we strongly recommend taking legal advice from an expert in this area of the law.

Ending a same sex marriage

When a marriage breaks down irretrievably, same sex couples can seek a divorce in the same way as heterosexual married couples do. You will need to demonstrate that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. We can help you to petition for divorce on the grounds of:

  • unreasonable behaviour
  • desertion for at least 2 years
  • a period of separation lasting two years, where both parties agree to divorce
  • a period of separation lasting at least 5 years where one partner does not agree to divorce.

The only way that divorce differs for same sex couples is that legally, adultery cannot be cited as grounds for divorce; currently the law only defines adultery as taking place between a man and a woman. However, it can be argued that infidelity constitutes unreasonable behaviour. Whatever your personal situation, the divorce solicitors at Clifford Johnston & Co can offer expert advice on the best course of action to take.

Contact us

At Clifford Johnston & Co. we are renowned for working to the highest of legal standards and pride ourselves on delivering a professional, affordable service to clients right across Stockport and Manchester.

For clear, confidential and expert advice about ending civil partnerships and same sex marriages contact us today on 0161 975 1900 or use the online enquiry form above.

Our Family Law Solicitors in Stockport (Heaton Moor) & Manchester (Burnage) are easily accessible.  We represent clients on all family law matters not only locally and throughout Stockport, Cheshire, Lancashire & Manchester but also across the United Kingdom. You can count on us to help and guide you whatever your challenge or circumstance.

Need some professional advice?

Do you have any issues that you are worried about? Contact our professional team for a free, no-obligation informal discussion, where we can discuss your particular requirements in greater detail.

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