Civil Partnership (scotland) Act 2020: Civil Partnerships For Mixed-sex Couples

On 23 June 2020 MSPs voted unanimously to pass the Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. This provides the same opportunities for all couples in Scotland to enter into a legally recognised relationship.


In 2004 Civil Partnerships were introduced in Scotland to allow same-sex couples the opportunity to enter into a legally recognised relationship and provide similar rights to mixed-sex couples. Then, ten years later in 2014 same-sex marriage became legal in Scotland.
In 2018 the UK Supreme Court ruled that after the introduction of same sex marriage, the Civil Partnership Act 2004 was no longer compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, because it denied mixed sex couples the opportunity to enter into civil partnerships. This led to the Scottish Government consulting on whether to either scrap civil partnerships completely or make them available to mixed-sex couples. On 23 June 2020 the decision was made to open up civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples.

Difference between marriage and civil partnership

Now that all couples can choose to get married or enter into a civil partnership, you may be wondering what the differences between the two are. The short answer is, legally not a whole lot. Civil partners effectively have the same rights and responsibilities as if they were married. The main differences between the two are in how the relationship is formalised. To formalise a civil partnership, a document is signed but to formalise a marriage verbal vows are exchanged.

Ending a civil partnership is called a dissolution but the process is almost identical to getting a divorce. One difference is that adultery is not currently a ground for dissolution, but is for divorce. However, a civil partner could instead apply for dissolution ground of their partner’s unreasonable behaviour if they have been unfaithful.

Why a civil partnership?

With marriage and civil partnerships being virtually identical and now that both options are open to all couples, you may be wondering why someone would choose a civil partnership. For some people marriage has religious, conservative or patriarchal connotations that do no appeal to them. For many people, the new Act represents a freedom of choice for all couples which can only be good!

If you need advice on the legal consequences of civil partnerships or marriage, please contact Tony Anderson or Alice Hegarty on 01334 654081.

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