Civil partnerships in UK divorce law are to all intents and purposes treated as marriages when it comes to dissolving them. Although this web site refers almost exclusively to divorce in England and to the rights of a divorcing couple in respect of finances, custody of children, wills etc it should not be forgotten that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force on 5th December 2005.
The rights of civil partners are essentially the same as married couples. In the event that a civil partner seeks the dissolution of the partnership then the rights of each former partner are analogous to the rights of an ex spouse. In order to bring the civil partnership to an end it needs to be dissolved by a court just like a marriage and any dispute about the financial issues arising from the dissolution of the partnership are dealt with in ancillary relief proceedings just as in the case of divorce. The procedure for the dissolution of a marriage and of a civil partnership is effectively the same as is the process by which any financial issues or issues about children arising from the dissolution are settled.
Of course, the very big difference between marriage and a civil partnership is that persons of the same sex can enter into a civil partnership. In the UK persons of the same sex still cannot legally marry. For the spouses to be of different sexes is a legal requirement of marriage but it is not a requirement to enter into a civil partnership. Provided the other requirements as to age and not being too closely related etc are met persons of the same sex can enter into a civil partnership but they cannot marry. Two persons of a different sex can marry but not enter into a civil partnership. This may seem rather odd. After all, it might have been simpler just to remove the prohibition on marriage between persons of the same sex but that is not how Parliament chose to approach the issue. There were others who argued that persons of different sexes should be allowed to enter into civil partnerships rather than marriage if they wished but that approach was also rejected.
There is therefore now a separate legal regime for civil partners in UK divorce law which is essentially the same as that which applies to a married couple.
Just as marriages contracted outside the UK may be recognised here so may certain unions entered into outside the UK be recognised in England as civil partnerships here. The list of countries which allow legal unions between same sex couples and where those unions will be recognised in the UK is set out in Schedule 20 to the Act. Of course, many countries do now allow marriage between same sex couples so some of the overseas 'unions' which are recognised by the Act are in fact marriages in those countries but in the UK those marriages will only be recognised as civil partnerships rather than marriages where the partners are of the same sex. Many people may regard this as a little strange.
Rather than refer to 'spouse or civil partner' throughout this website we have referred to 'spouse' or 'ex spouse' but is should be remembered that since 5th December 2005 the term 'spouse' may also usually be taken to include 'civil partner' within the context of this site and uk divorce laws.