Recognition of Foreign Same Sex Relationships


We offer unrivalled expertise in dealing with the legal issues affecting same sex couples. Our expert family lawyers regularly advise on civil partnerships and same sex marriages, including negotiating pre-marriage and pre-civil partnership agreements, and the divorce and dissolution process.

Our international expertise in the recognition and treatment of same sex relationships, including civil partnerships, is second to none. Director David Allison is well known for his role in advising same sex couples. As chair of the LGBT committee of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, David has an appreciation of the cross border legal issues and contacts with specialist family lawyers across the globe.

In this section, we have provided guidance on some of the questions that we are commonly asked about the recognition of foreign same sex relationships.

Frequently Asked Questions →

I registered a civil/domestic partnership in another country. Is that recognised in the UK?

Almost certainly your registered partnership will be recognised throughout the UK as a Civil Partnership. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 (which applies throughout the UK) recognises ‘overseas relationships’ which are either set out in a schedule to the Act or which meet general criteria which would be met by the vast majority of overseas partnerships.

Is same-sex marriage now possible in the UK?

In England & Wales marriage between same-sex couples is possible under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. It is also possible for a same-sex couple to marry in Scotland under the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014.  As from January 2020 same-sex marriage is also available in Northern Ireland.

I married my same-sex partner in another country. Will that marriage be recognised in the UK?

In England & Wales a foreign same-sex marriages will be recognised provided that the marriage has been properly performed in the country it took place and the couple had capacity to marry each other under their personal law. This can be quite complex but most foreign same-sex marriages will be recognised.  Scotland and Northern Ireland make similar provision. 

Can I convert my Civil/Domestic Partnership into marriage?

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 allows for conversion of Civil Partnerships registered in England & Wales into marriage. The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 makes similar provisions for Scottish Civil Partnerships. There has been a consultation in Northern Ireland about conversion of civil partnerships there but no legislation yet to provide for it. However, foreign domestic civil partnerships cannot be converted to marriage. It would be necessary to dissolve the foreign domestic civil partnership and then marry in England & Wales or Scotland.

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