Registering a civil partnership
This information applies to Scotland
What is a civil partnership
A civil partnership is a legal relationship, which can be registered by two people of the same sex. A civil partnership gives you the same rights and responsibilities as marriage.
Same sex couples also have the option to get married.
To register a civil partnership, you and your partner must sign a civil partnership document in front of two witnesses and the person registering your civil partnership.
In some situations, a same-sex couple who has not registered a civil partnership will have the same legal rights and responsibilities as a couple who has registered a civil partnership. This will be the case, for example, when working out your entitlement to welfare benefits and tax credits.
For more information about the rights and responsibilities of same-sex couples, see Rights of same-sex couples in Relationships fact sheets.
Who can register a civil partnership
You can register a civil partnership with your partner of the same sex as long as all the following circumstances apply:-
- you are both 16 or over
- neither of you is already either a civil partner, or married
- you are not relatives who are legally forbidden from registering a civil partnership
- you are both capable of understanding the nature of a civil partnership and are able to consent to its formation.
How to register a civil partnership
There are two steps needed to register a civil partnership. The first step is to give notice of your intention to register and the second is to actually register the civil partnership.
You and your partner will each need to give notice of your intention to register a civil partnership to the district registrar for the area where you wish to register your civil partnership. There is no legal requirement for a minimum length of residence in Scotland for a couple who wish to form a civil partnership in Scotland. As there are no residence requirements, you can choose the district in Scotland where you wish to register.
When you give notice, you will be asked to give details of the date and place where the civil partnership is to be registered. You will also have to give the register office certain personal details. These are your name, your address, your date of birth and whether you have been in a civil partnership or married before. You may also be required to give evidence of your nationality.
When you give the notice to the district registrar, this must be accompanied by your birth certificate and the correct fee. If either you or your partner has been married or in a civil partnership before, you will need to produce documents to prove you are free to register a civil partnership. This could be, for example, a decree of divorce, or the death certificate of a former civil partner. If one of you is subject to immigration control, you may have to provide additional documentary evidence – see under heading People subject to immigration control.
Once you have given notice of your intention to register a civil partnership, details from the notice will be publicised in the register office for the area where you intend to register.
The details must be made available for people to see for 28 days before you can register your civil partnership. This is to give an opportunity for any objections to be made.
The details made available will not include your address, or that of your partner.
Once the 28 day minimum waiting period has expired, if there are no objections, the register office will produce a legal document called a Civil Partnership Schedule. You will need this document to register your civil partnership. If your civil partnership is going to be registered by a religious or belief celebrant, you or your partner will need to collect the Civil Partnership Schedule in person from the registrar's office. Once the Civil Partnership Schedule is ready, you are free to register your partnership within the next three months. If you don't register your civil partnership within this period, you will not be able to register unless you start the whole process again.
In some exceptional circumstances, for example, where one of you is terminally ill, you can ask for the 28-day waiting period to be waived – see under heading Special rules for people who are seriously ill.
The civil partnership notice application form and guidance notes are available on the National Records of Scotland website at www.nrscotland.gov.uk.
A civil partnership can be registered by a:-
- district or assistant registrar; or
- religious or belief celebrant who has been authorised by the Registrar General (where the religious or belief body has agreed to register civil partnerships)
If your civil partnership is going to be registered by a registrar, it may take place either in a registration office or any other place that the registration authority agrees to, except for religious premises.
If your civil partnership is going to be registered by a religious or belief celebrant, this can take place anywhere agreed by you and your celebrant.
There is no legal obligation or duty on a religious or belief body to register civil partnerships and it isn't unlawful discrimination for an individual celebrant or religious or belief body to refuse to register a civil partnership.
Non-religious venues cannot choose whether to hold civil partnerships or not, if they hold weddings. This would be unlawful discrimination. However, religious organisations can refuse to hold civil partnerships in their venues.
For more information see Discrimination because of sexuality.
You can access a directory of registrars in Scotland, on the National Records of Scotland website at www.nrscotland.gov.uk . You should check the venue is available before registering your notice to register.
You and your partner will have legally registered your civil partnership once you have signed the Civil Partnership Schedule in front of the person registering the civil partnership and two witnesses.
You can arrange to have a ceremony in addition to your registration process but this is not legally required. If you would like to have a ceremony you should contact the local registrar or your religious or belief celebrant to find out what arrangements can be made.
If your civil partnership is being registered by a religious or belief celebrant, you must arrange for the Civil Partnership Schedule to be returned to the district registrar within 3 days of the civil partnership so that it can be registered in the civil partnership register.
The cost of registering a civil partnership
General information about the costs involved are available on the National Records of Scotland website at www.nrscotland.gov.uk .
Special rules for people who are seriously ill
There are special rules for registering a civil partnership for people who are seriously ill and not expected to recover. These relax the rules for registering a civil partnership in order to speed up the process. Only one of you will need to give notice of your intention to register a civil partnership to the register office. You will need to provide evidence that one of you is seriously ill and not expected to recover, and that they are too ill to be moved.
Special rules if one of you has acquired a different gender
If one partner has acquired a different gender and has a full gender recognition certificate, they will be able to form a civil partnership in the same way as any other person.
There is more information about gender recognition, and how to register a civil partnership when one of you has acquired a different gender, on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.
People subject to immigration control
There are special rules for registering a civil partnership if either you or your partner is subject to immigration control.
You will be subject to immigration control unless you are:
- a British citizen or someone who has the right to live in the UK or
- an EEA national or
- someone who doesn't have any conditions attached to your stay in the UK because you are for example, a diplomat, or a member of visiting armed forces.
For more information about which countries belong to the EU, see The European Union.
For more information about who is subject to immigration control, see Immigration.
If you are subject to immigration control, you and your partner must both give notice to register your civil partnership at a special Register office. Before you will be allowed to give notice, you must have been granted entry clearance to the UK specifically for the purpose of registering a civil partnership in the UK.
Everyone who wants to register a civil partnership in a Register Office must provide proof of their nationality. For more information, go to the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk. If the registrar believes that someone is entering into a civil partnership for immigration purposes, they must report this to UK Visas and Immigration.
If you are subject to immigration control and want to register a civil partnership, you may need to get advice from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Recognition for partnerships of same-sex couples formed overseas
Some same-sex couples may already have formed a same sex civil union abroad.
If you are in one of this kind of relationship, you can get automatic recognition in the UK as civil partners and will not need to register in the UK as well. However, you, your partner, and your overseas relationship must meet certain conditions.
Ending a registered civil partnership
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.
It is possible for civil partners to change their civil partnership into a marriage. The civil partnership will end on the conversion.
For more information about ending a civil partnership, see Ending a civil partnership.
Converting a civil partnership into marriage
It's possible for a couple to convert a qualifying civil partnership to marriage. This can be done by a simple administrative process or by having a full marriage ceremony.
For more information about converting a civil partnership to marriage, see Getting married
Differences between civil partnership and marriage
Civil partnership and marriage are almost identical and civil partners have the same rights and responsibilities as married partners. However, civil partnership is only available to same sex couples, whereas marriage is available to both opposite sex and same sex couples. There are also some very small procedural differences, for example, civil partnerships are registered by signing the Civil Partnership Schedule, with no words required to be spoken, whereas marriages are solemnised by saying a prescribed from of words.