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. We also offer deep expertise in the legal issues affecting same sex couples who choose to live together without entering into a civil partnership or getting married.

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 Committee of the International Academy of Family Lawyers responsible for issues relating to Gender and Sexuality, David has an appreciation of the cross border legal issues and contacts with specialist family lawyers across the globe.

Our Expertise →

Director David Allison is renowned for his expertise in advising same sex couples. He is chair of the Gender Identity and Sexuality committee of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is a member of the UK & Ireland LGBT Family Law Institute. 

If you are thinking about entering into a same sex marriage or if you have any questions about the legal implications of your same sex relationship, please contact David for an informal chat.

Civil Partnerships & Same Sex Marriage →

Since December 2005 it has been possible for same sex couples to enter into a civil partnership and since 29 March 2014 same sex couples have been able to get married.

Civil partnership is similar to a civil marriage and, in almost all respects, is legally equivalent. For example:

  • Civil partners enjoy the same tax treatment as married couples
  • Civil partners can acquire parental responsibility for each other’s children in the same way as married couples
  • Civil partners may adopt a child or apply for a parental order (in respect of a surrogate child) in the same way as a married couple
  • The divorce process (known as dissolution) is the same as for divorce although the grounds for dissolution are slightly different
  • Financial settlements on dissolution of a civil partnership are the same as on divorce; and
  • Civil partnership agreements are treated in the same way as marriage or relationship agreements (pre-nups).

Other countries have a variety of different schemes. The rights and responsibilities that arise out of civil partnership or civil union schemes can differ significantly from equivalence to marriage (such as UK civil partnerships) to ones that largely confer tax benefits (such as the French PACS scheme which is also available to opposite sex couples). The recognition provisions are patchy and can give rise to very different rights and responsibilities than those which apply in the home country. Professional advice is key to understanding the implications of the different schemes.

Since 29th March 2014 same sex couples also have the option of getting married in England & Wales. However, some important differences remain between same sex and opposite sex marriage:

  • Whilst provision is made for religious same sex marriages, this is only possible if the religious group ‘opts in’. Clergy from the Church of England and the Church in Wales are currently prohibited from performing a same sex marriage; and
  • There is no requirement to consummate a same sex marriage (and, therefore, nullity on the basis of non-consummation is not available).

Separation of Unmarried Couples →

If your same sex relationship breaks down and you were not married or in a civil partnership, the legal issues you face may be complex.

Contrary to popular belief, couples who cohabit but who are unmarried do not benefit from the same legal rights as married couples when the relationship comes to an end. The concept of ‘common law marriage’ simply does not exist in our legal system.

As the law presently stands, the types of financial claims that can be made by unmarried partners are limited. The absence of legal protection can lead to uncertainty and financial difficulty at the end of the relationship unless a claim can be made with respect to ownership of property or a financial claim on behalf of a child.

Obtaining expert legal advice is crucial to understand what your entitlements may be and how you can protect yourself should your relationship end.

Frequently Asked Questions →

Some of the questions which our same sex clients commonly ask us include: 

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 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.

Our People


We have some of the very best London divorce lawyers and mediators, along with accomplished arbitrators, family consultants and counsellors. There’s no one better to handle your case.

Team of Family Lawyers Talking

Related News & Insights


Click here for more News & Insights