We are highly regarded for our expertise in issues relating to same sex marriage and civil partnerships

Same Sex Marriage & Civil Partnerships

Unrivalled experience We advise on all aspects of same sex marriages and civil partnerships


We have extensive experience in dealing with all issues relating to same sex couples from negotiating pre-marriage and pre-civil partnership agreements to negotiating divorce and the dissolution and separation process. 

Since December 2005 it has been possible for same sex couples to enter into a civil partnership and since 29 March 2014 same sex couples have been able to get married.

Civil partnership is akin to a civil marriage and, in almost all respects, is legally equivalent. For example:

  • Civil partners enjoy the same tax treatment as married couples
  • Civil partners can acquire parental responsibility for each other’s children in the same way as married couples
  • Civil partners may adopt a child or apply for a parental order (in respect of a surrogate child) in the same way as a married couple
  • The divorce process (known as dissolution) is the same as for divorce although the grounds for dissolution are slightly different
  • Financial settlements on dissolution of a civil partnership are the same as on divorce
  • Civil partnership agreements are treated in the same way as marriage agreements (pre-nups)

Other countries have a variety of different schemes. The rights and responsibilities that arise out of civil partnership or civil union schemes can differ significantly from equivalence to marriage (such as UK civil partnerships) to ones that largely confer tax benefits (such as the French PACS scheme which is also available to opposite sex couples). The recognition provisions are patchy and can give rise to very different rights and responsibilities than those which apply in the home country. Professional advice is key to understanding the implications of the different schemes.

Since 29th March 2014 same sex couples also have the option of getting married in England and Wales. However, there remain some important differences between same sex and opposite sex marriage:

  • whilst provision is made for religious same sex marriages, this is only possible if the religious group ‘opts in’. Clergy from the Church of England and the Church in Wales are currently prohibited from performing a same sex marriage;
  • there is no requirement to consummate a same sex marriage (and, therefore, nullity on the basis of non-consummation is not available as a ground for divorce);
  • adultery is not a basis for divorce; and
  • pension providers need only provide for survivor/widow’s benefits in respect of contributions from 5 December 2005 i.e. the date of implementation of the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

Director David Allison is well known for his expertise in advising same sex couples and cohabitants on the family law issues they may face. He is a member of the LGBT committee of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Network of the American Bar Association (International Section) and the UK & Ireland LGBT Family Law Institute, an association of family solicitors and barristers experienced in the area of LGBT family law. If you are thinking about entering into a same sex marriage or are considering registering a civil partnership, please contact David for an informal chat.

Take a look at our recent blogs on same sex issues:

The Inheritance Tax Burden and Civil Partnership for Cohabiting Siblings: Right idea, Wrong approach?

The Civil Partnership Debate – Success for Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan in the Supreme Court

The Recognition of Same Sex Marriages Abroad

Civil Partnerships vs Marriage – The Face of Modern Day Relationships

Registering a Civil Partnership or Same Sex Marriage with an Overseas Consulate

Reflections on Divorce – Ending your Civil Partnership

An end to pension inequality for married and civil partnered same sex couples?

Civil Partnership Registrations Halved Since Introduction of Same Sex Marriage

Civil Partnership and Same-Sex Marriage – Capacity and Recognition of Foreign Relationships

A Marriage for all…why not a Civil Partnership for all?

Same Sex Marriage in the US – the Constitutional Tidal Wave

Is there true equality for lesbians and gay men?

International Same Sex Marriage and Adoption

We have set out below some the questions which our same sex clients commonly ask us: 

  1. I registered a civil/domestic partnership in another country. Is that recognised in the UK? Almost certainly your registered partnership will be recognised throughout the UK as a Civil Partnership. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 (which applies throughout the UK) recognises ‘overseas relationships’ which are either set out in a schedule to the Act or which meet general criteria which would be met by the vast majority of overseas partnerships.
  2. Is same-sex marriage now possible in the UK? In England & Wales marriage between same-sex couples is now possible under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. It is also possible for a same-sex couple to marry in Scotland under the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014. Same-sex marriage is not available in Northern Ireland.
  3. I married my same-sex partner in another country. Will that marriage be recognised in the UK? In England & Wales a foreign same-sex marriages will be recognised provided that the marriage has been properly performed in the country it took place and the couple had capacity to marry each other under their personal law. This can be quite complex but most foreign same-sex marriages will be recognised. Scotland makes similar provisions. In Northern Ireland foreign same-sex marriages will be recognised as Civil Partnerships.
  4. Can I convert my Civil/Domestic Partnership into marriage? The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 allows for conversion of Civil Partnerships registered in England & Wales into marriage. The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 makes similar provisions for Scottish Civil Partnerships. However, foreign domestic civil partnerships cannot be converted to marriage. It would be necessary to dissolve the foreign domestic civil partnership and then marry in England & Wales or Scotland.