The definition of civil partnership
The definition of civil partnership

The following Family guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • The definition of civil partnership
  • Definition
  • Formalities
  • Further requirements
  • Comparison between marriage and civil partnership


When introduced by the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (CPA 2004), civil partnerships related only to two people of the same sex. However, from 2 December 2019 the Civil Partnership (Opposite-sex Couples) Regulations 2019 (CP(O-sC)R 2019), SI 2019/1458 are in effect and the eligibility criteria in CPA 2004 amended to allow opposite-sex couples to register a civil partnership in England and Wales.

The extension of civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples followed a campaign for civil partnerships to be made available to opposite-sex couples, some of whom may choose not to marry for personal reasons. In R (on the application of Steinfeld) (Appellants) v Secretary of State for the International Development, the Supreme Court found that the provisions in CPA 2004 preventing opposite-sex couples from entering into a civil partnership were incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Supreme Court made a declaration of incompatibility and rejected the respondent’s argument that European Court of Human Rights case law required a wide margin of appreciation in relation to the timing of legislative change to recognise different forms of relationship. See also News Analysis: Different-sex couples’ exclusion from civil partnerships is discriminatory (R (Steinfeld) v Secretary of State for International Development). Following that decision, the Government announced its intention to consult on planned refo