Since 2005 same sex couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships and since March 2014 to enter into a marriage. What is not so well known is that it is possible to convert a civil partnership into a marriage.
Our Family Law Team look at how you do it and what are the consequences.
Any couples who registered as civil partners in England and Wales and some couples who registered their partnerships abroad (for example armed forces personnel) can apply to convert their partnership.
There are various different procedures which can be followed. The most common are the standard procedure (which takes place at a register office) and the two stage procedure where a conversion ceremony can take place in other premises such as a religious venue.
Before you can convert your civil partnership into a marriage, you must make an appointment to attend a register office before the superintendent registrar. The register office you attend does not need to be where you formed your civil partnership. The registrar will take information and documents from both partners and ask you where you are proposing that the conversion takes place.
Conversion using the standard procedure is a simple administrative process and can take less than 30 minutes. Once you have visited the register office and provided the required information and evidence to the superintendent registrar, the conversion can take place. Each person must sign the conversion declaration in the presence of the other and the superintendent registrar. The superintendent registrar will then sign the conversion declaration in your presence. You may wish to say the declaration wording aloud to one another before signing the conversion declaration.
However, if you want to convert your civil partnership into a marriage somewhere other than at the registrar’s office, then you must follow the two stage process. The first stage is for both parties to attend the appointment at the register office together and provide the information required. The second stage is the signing of the conversion declaration, which can be followed by a ceremony and can take place at venues where same sex couples are permitted to marry.
The first and second stages can be planned for the same day, or take place on different days.
You can choose to include your own vows and declarations in the ceremony and include readings or poems as you wish.
For those couples who want their conversion to have a religious element, the conversion can only take place in a religious building if the religious organisation has “opted in” to hold them and the minister agrees. The procedure by the superintendent registrar is the same as for non religious conversions.
After the ceremony, the conversion will be registered on a central register and your marriage will be treated as if it had existed from the day your civil partnership was formed, without you losing any of the rights or entitlements you have accrued from being in a civil partnership.
The Family Law Team are very experienced in LGBT related family law issues and are happy to discuss your options as well as any other issues related to marriage such as finances and children. For more information please contact one of our solicitors.
This article was written by Louise Eady, Senior Associate in the Family Law Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of January 2020.