3: End of the line for civil partnerships?
On 10 December 2014 a historic change will take place to enable civil partners to convert their civil partnership into a marriage. According to official figures, by the end of 2012 more than 60,000 couples had registered a civil partnership, which has given same sex couples legal recognition of their relationship since 2005.
England and Wales went a step further in March this year, when a new law was introduced to allow same sex couples to marry. As a consequence, questions were raised about the future of civil partnerships – why enter into one when you could marry? A wide-sweeping consultation was undertaken to consider the future for civil partnerships, however given the lack of consensus on the way forward there will be no changes in the foreseeable future.
WHAT WILL THIS MEAN TO AN EXISTING CIVIL PARTNERSHIP?
The bottom line is that same sex couples can now either register a civil partnership or enter into marriage, and from 10 December 2014 will be able to convert a civil partnership to a marriage.
For couples looking to convert their civil partnership into a marriage, there are some key steps to consider. Firstly, the civil partnership can only be converted if it was registered in England and Wales, or overseas in a consulate or armed forces base. If the civil partnership was registered before 29 March 2014 no fee will be payable. After this date there will be a fee, or if the civil partnership is converted into a marriage after 9 December 2015 a fee (circa £45 depending on whether it is at the Register’s Office or an approved premise) will also be applicable.
TWO WAYS TO CONVERT A MARRIAGE INTO A CIVIL PARTNERSHIP
- An administrative process called ‘standard conversion’
- A two-stage process where the conversion is followed by a ceremony
Under a standard conversion both civil partners will be required to attend an appointment at any Register office and complete a declaration. Identification documents such as a passport or birth certificate will be required, along with evidence of address and the original civil partnership certificate. A legal declaration will then be drawn up to convert the civil partnership to a marriage.
The second option is to follow the conversion with a ceremony. In this case, the same process applies, then the ceremony needs to take place at an approved venue. Following the ceremony the marriage is then registered and a marriage certificate is issued. There are additional fees for a ceremony at a Register office and/or attendance at an approved premise – anyone considering this option should check with their local Register office to confirm these fees.
In the meantime, the issue of what to do about civil partnerships in England and Wales continues to be debated, and their future remains to be seen.
8 December 2014