According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics, 1409 same-sex couples married in the first three months after the law was introduced on 29th March 2014. Yet around 120,000 people already in civil partnerships have had to wait until December 10th to have the option to convert their union into a marriage. Here Lee Trubshaw, Partner at solicitors Bradin Trubshaw & Kirwan LLP and specialist in civil partnership dissolution, explains the conversion process:
Q: How do my partner and I go about converting our civil partnership into a marriage?
Lee: From Wednesday 10th December 2014 you will be able to convert your civil partnership into a marriage at a register office as long as the partnership has been registered in England or Wales or overseas in an armed forces base or consulate. Both partners need to be present and to provide proof of identity and the original civil partnership registration. Once you sign a declaration that you wish to convert your civil partnership into a marriage and that the partnership has not been dissolved, the conversion will be registered and a marriage certificate issued. There is no official ceremony and no witnesses are needed.
Q: How much does the conversion process cost?
Lee: There is a free conversion period until Wednesday 9th December 2015 during which time the £45 fee will be waived if your civil partnership was registered before 29th March 2014. Be aware though that the conversion fee will have to be paid after 9th December 2015 even if your civil partnership was registered before 29th March 2014 or if you registered your civil partnership after 29th March this year or if you plan to register a civil partnership in the future and later convert it into marriage.
Q: Where can we convert our civil partnership?
Lee: A conversion can take place at any register office in England or Wales and does not have to be in the same office where you registered your civil partnership.
Q: When does a converted marriage date from?
Lee: Once the civil partnership is converted into a marriage the civil partnership will come to an end and the marriage is considered as if it had existed from the date of the civil partnership. This is why a certificate of marriage conversion is slightly different from one issued without a conversion as it shows both the ‘when married’ date (the date the civil partnership was formed) and the date of conversion.
Q: Are there any differences between a same-sex marriage and civil partnership?
Lee: Legally married couples cannot call themselves civil partners; likewise civil partners cannot call themselves married. Whereas marriages are recorded on paper in a hard copy register, civil partnerships are recorded in an electronic register. A marriage certificate shows only the names of the fathers of both parties but a civil partnership certificate includes the names of both parents. A marriage is ended by divorce, a civil partnership by a dissolution order. Adultery is not recognised as grounds for ending a civil partnership whereas it is for a marriage although is defined as with someone of the opposite sex outside of marriage. When it comes to matters such as income tax, inheritance tax, capital gains tax and pension benefits, lesbian, gay and bisexual people in either a marriage or civil partnership are treated in the same way as married heterosexual couples.
Q: Does the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act affect transgendered people?
Lee: From Wednesday 10th December 2014 marriages will be allowed to continue where one or both parties changes their legal gender and both wish to remain married. In addition, commencing the same date it will also be possible for partners who both wish to change legal gender at the same time to remain in their civil partnership.
For advice on civil partnerships, same sex marriage and other legal matters contact Bradin Trubshaw & Kirwan LLP on 01543 421840 for a consultation or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any legal questions for Lee email us here at email@example.com.