I am in a civil partnership, what are my legal rights?


According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) there were 6,795 civil partnerships in the UK in 2011. With this figure ever-increasing it is important that when you enter into a civil partnership you are aware of your rights.

What is a civil partnership?

A civil partnership is a legal relationship which can be registered by 2 people of the same sex. If you are in a gay or lesbian relationship, this means that your relationship will be legally recognised.

A civil partnerships will also give you a number of rights and responsibilities, such as:
  • Joint treatment for income-related benefits
  • Joint state pension benefits
  • Ability to gain parental responsibility for each other's children
  • Fair arrangements for dividing property when the relationship breaks down

Your Home

You and your civil partner both have the right to stay in your home, regardless of who owns property and whose name is on the mortgage.

Your partner cannot ask you to leave without your agreement - they will need to obtain a court order to do this.

The court has the power to make an order transferring property to one or the other of you, order the sale of the property and determine how the costs of the property are met.

If you and your partner have children, the court will prioritise a home for the children over and above anything else.

Your Money and other Assets

Any money or assets held by one or both of you are 'assets' of the civil partnership. The court has the power to make orders distributing such assets between you, taking account of the length of the civil partnership, contribution and need.

If either of you dies without making a will, then the other will still inherit some or all of the property. If your partner has a will then you will inherit according to what is written in the will. You will not have to pay inheritance tax on any property left to you by your partner.

Pensions and welfare benefits

By law, occupational pension schemes and some private pensions must offer the same benefits to civil partners as they do to married heterosexual partners. You may also be able to claim a state retirement pension based on your partners national insurance contributions. If your relationship breaks down, you may be entitled to your partner's occupational or state pension.

A civil partnership will also affect your rights in terms of how you claim benefits and tax credits. Both partners' income will be taken into account when assessing means-tested benefits. For example, if you and your partner apply for job seekers allowance your joint income will be taken into account when assessing how much money you will receive.


When you enter into your civil partnership it will become easier for you to gain parental responsibility of any children you already have or that you plan to have in the future.

Parental responsibility gives you the right to make decisions about their education and health - whilst also being responsible for their care and maintenance. A woman who has given birth to the child automatically has parental responsibility.

As a civil partner, you can gain parental responsibility by:
  • Requesting that a court gives your parental responsibility
  • Make a parental responsibility agreement with the mother of the child/child's parents to get parental responsibility
  • Adopting the child
  • Registering or re-registering the birth of the child with the mother
  • Being in a civil partnership with the mother at birth

The last 2 options are only available to lesbian couples in certain circumstances.

Talking to a Solicitor

It is important to employ a solicitor who is well experienced in civil partnerships when dealing with any of the problems referred to above. They will be able to guide you through the process of making applications or just give you advice on what are your best options in your current situation.

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