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If you’re one of the 3 million mixed sex couples living together in the UK you now have an alternative to marriage – you can have a civil partnership instead.
What is a civil partnership?
A civil partnership is a legal relationship which can be registered by two people who aren’t related to each other. It provides rights very similar to those of a married couple. Once you have registered a civil partnership, it can only be ended if one of you dies, or by applying to court to bring the partnership legally to an end. Being in a civil partnership can affect important aspects of your life including:
A civil partner paying basic rate tax can apply for the Marriage Allowance worth £250 a year if the other partner pays no income tax.
Responsibility for children
Not everyone who lives with a child has parental responsibility – a say in your child’s healthcare, education, welfare and in whether your child can be taken abroad. A birth mother has automatic parental responsibility. So does a man who was married to or in a civil partnership with the mother at the time of the birth, or has completed a legal adoption.
You can check if you have parental responsibility and apply if you don’t on GOV.UK.
If you’re in a civil partnership, adoption is straightforward and need not involve an agency, as long as the applicant has lived with the child for at least six months. If you’re not in a civil partnership, the procedure is likely to take longer.
Ending a relationship
If you are living together with your partner without being in a civil partnership, you can separate informally without going to court. However, the court has the power to make decisions about who should take care of any children. Both birth parents are responsible for supporting a child financially. You will also have financial responsibility for a child you have adopted.
If you are in a civil partnership, you and your partner can separate informally, but you will need to apply to court if you want to end your civil partnership formally. You and your partner have a legal responsibility to support one another financially when your civil partnership has ended, as well as a child for whom you are the birth or adopted parent.
Civil partners are entitled to remain in a rented or owner-occupied home irrespective of who pays the bills or has their name on contracts – unless a court has ordered them to leave. If you just live together there are no automatic “home rights”.
If you are a civil partner, you may be able to claim a state retirement pension based on your partner’s national insurance contributions and you will be entitled to the same treatment from private pension schemes as married couples.
Death and inheritance
If one of you dies without leaving a will, a civil partner will automatically receive part or all of the property. If you’re just living together you won’t normally receive a share in the estate unless there is a will – and you may also need to pay inheritance tax, whereas civil partners are exempt.