Ian Butterworth
Partner & Solicitor
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Date Published:01 Dec 2016 Last Updated:01 Aug 2021

Converting a Civil Partnership into a Same Sex Marriage

Family Law

The introduction of same sex marriage in England and Wales was long overdue. For those who had already entered into a civil partnership, however, it raised many questions. Are they still able to get married? How do they go about doing this? What, if any, impact would getting married have upon their financial claims in the event of their separation. This article is designed to answer these questions.

Same Sex Marriage

Same sex marriage was introduced in England and Wales on 13 March 2014 with the first such marriage taking place 16 days later on 29 March 2014. The relevant piece of legislation also sets out a means of converting an existing civil partnership into a marriage. Subject to meeting the eligibility criteria, civil partners are therefore able to proceed to get married should they so wish.

The two main groups of civil partners who are able to apply for a conversion are as follows:

  • Those who formed a civil partnership by registering as civil partners in England and Wales; and
  • Those who formed a civil partnership outside England and Wales under an Order in Council at a British Consulate or as a member of the armed forces.

Unfortunately, those who registered as civil partners outside of England and Wales other than under an Order in Council are unable to convert their civil partnership into a same sex marriage.

At this juncture, it should be noted that those who entered into a same sex marriage outside of England and Wales will be recognised as married in this jurisdiction irrespective as to whether this was before 13 March 2014 or after.

How to Convert a Civil Partnership into a Same Sex Marriage

The two main procedures for converting a civil partnership into a marriage are as follows:-

  • The standard procedure – This is largely an administrative process. Both civil partners need to attend an appointment at a register office and provide the required information and documentation. They also need to pay the prescribed fee of £45. The whole process should take less than 30 minutes.
  • The two stage procedure – This involves a formal ceremony at either secular or religious premises approved for the solemnisation of same sex marriages. Before this, the civil partners need to attend an appointment with the superintendent registrar.

If the civil partners want their family and friends present, the two stage procedure is their only realistic option.

Once the same sex marriage has been registered, the parties are entitled to a certified marriage certificate. This will confirm that the marriage should be treated as having commenced on the date of the civil partnership.

The Impact of the Conversion on the Parties’ Financial Claims

Converting a civil partnership into a same sex marriage will not impact upon the parties’ financial claims in the event of their separation. The rights and responsibilities of civil partners are already broadly the same as those for those who are married. The Court of Appeal has stated as follows:-

“The fact that the claim arises from the dissolution of a civil partnership rather than a marriage is of little moment since it is common ground that the language….is identical”

The legal requirements and procedure for a divorce and dissolution are also largely the same. It should be noted, however, that the civil partners are not able to commence dissolution proceedings on the grounds of adultery. Same sex spouses are also only able to initiate divorce proceedings on the grounds of adultery if it took place with a member of the opposite sex.

Should you require any advice or assistance with dissolving a civil partnership or ending a same sex marriage, please do not hesitate to contact Ian Butterworth through this firm’s Family Department on 01202 636223.