10 Dec 2014
As from 10th December 2014 the Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Conversion of Civil Partnerships) Regulations 2014 came into force. This now means that from that date couples in a civil partnership will be able to convert their civil partnership into a marriage.
This applies only if the civil partnership was registered in England and Wales (or overseas according to the laws of England and Wales). Civil partnerships registered in Scotland can be converted from 16th December 2014 but there are not currently provisions for the same to be undertaken in Northern Ireland.
Couples are issued with a marriage certificate. The “when married” date will be the date of the original civil partnership. There will also be a date for conversion otherwise the certificate could say that the couple married on a date before it was legally possible to do so.
There are two ways of obtaining this marriage certificate. First is called the “standard procedure”. Both civil partners attend the Registry office together, provide certain identification documents and their civil partnership certificate. They make and sign a legal declaration which is the “conversion declaration” in the presence of a superintendent registrar or a deputy. The declaration records that each of them has not dissolved the civil partnership and they both wish to convert it in to a marriage, thereby becoming the others lawful husband or wife. The marriage is then registered.
The second option is a two stage procedure as opposed to the one stage administrative process above and for this both parties attend at a Register office to provide identification documents and the civil partnership certificate. The declaration is then signed before the superintendent registrar or deputy at an approved venue as part of a conversion ceremony. This must happen within twelve months of the parties attending at the Register office and the approved venue can include religious premises which are registered for marriage of same sex couples.
When a civil partnership is converted into a marriage the parties will have the same legal status as they did when they were civil partners but now as husbands and wives. This means that the conversion will not revoke any existing Will or affects any arrangements in such a Will.
There is also a discount available until 10th December 2015 for all couples who formed their civil partnership before the 29th March 2014 which was when marriage was extended to same sex couples. These couples will receive a £45 fee reduction which means that for the one-stage “standard procedure” there will be no fee.
It would appear that at the moment there is no intention to prevent new civil partnerships from being entered into and there is no automatic conversion from civil partnerships to marriage but how things progress remains to be seen.