In reality there is currently minimal difference, including the legal consequences that result from either a marriage or civil partnership
- A marriage is formed when specific words are spoken, refers to the parties as husband / wife (and any combination thereof) and is recorded in a marriage register. You cannot convert a marriage to a civil partnership. A marriage entry / certificate does not include mother's details in the record (law change is planned to facilitate this).
- A civil partnership (only available to same sex couples) is formed when the schedule is signed, and refers to the parties as civil partners. You can convert a civil partnership to a marriage. A civil partnership record / certificate does include mother's details in the record.
In 2016 lawyers (Slater Gordon) put it clearly by explaining that "Fundamentally there are no major differences between civil partnerships and marriage but there are some differences including:
- Civil partners cannot call themselves 'married' for legal purposes.
- Civil partnership certificates include the names of both parents of the parties. Marriage certificates include the names of only the fathers of the parties.
- Adultery cannot be used as a reason to dissolve the Civil Partnership. In a marriage, if one party is unfaithful this is grounds for divorce. This isn't the case in civil partnership dissolution. Adultery isn't recognised in same-sex partners."
There is more information about marriages and civil partnerships on the Citizens Advice website.