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  • Writer's pictureJohn Pratley

How can I convert my marriage to a civil partnership?

Updated: Mar 6

Following on from our post about converting a civil partnership to a marriage which you can find the link here to

I received this message, anonymised and published with permission of course:-

"Hi John

Thank you for your anonymised story on the website. I have the opposite request in that I am female and always wanted a civil partnership not a marriage to my male partner. I feel very strongly about marriage and both our parents were divorced acrimoniously. However we had three kids and the thought of the complications if one of us died made us get a secret marriage a decade ago, hoping to have a civil partnership when that came in for heterosexuals.

Now it seems that I am still unable to convert from one to the other. We could divorce then get civilly partnered but are there financial risks to this?

Kind regards


"Hi Lisa

You raise an interesting point.

The process for moving from civil partnership to marriage and vice versa all seems to have been rather ill thought out – I suspect simply because the government wished to avoid unintentional disadvantage to same-sex relationships, without really considering the consequences for opposite sex relationships and getting the detail right.

I haven't really re-read the regulations concerning civil partnerships sufficiently recently to say with absolute certainty that people who are already married cannot also have a valid civil partnership. But that would probably not achieve the outcome you want, because there is no reason to say that the civil partnership would dissolve the earlier marriage.

You should probably take detailed advice about the potential financial disadvantages before you decide to dissolve your marriage in order to then go through a civil partnership ceremony.

As a divorce lawyer, I automatically think how it might affect the approach of a court to your finances if your relationship subsequently broke down. I suspect the answer is that it would make very little difference because, although the law relating to divorce settlements says the court must have regard to (amongst other things) the length of the marriage/civil partnership courts also routinely take into account periods of unmarried cohabitation. Hence in considering a financial settlement on dissolution of a civil partnership and earlier marriage ought to be taken into account in just the same way.

But there might be detailed issues. I'm thinking particularly of pension arrangements. If either you or your husband has significant pension you should check the detail of that to understand how a divorce followed by a subsequent civil partnership might affect the others entitlement to widows benefits on death.




Health Warning :This post is intended as a general guide only – It is important to obtain expert advice about your own situation, I can certainly accept no responsibility for any loss you might suffer as a result of relying purely on the information on this website.


John Pratley is an expert divorce lawyer, who has more than 25 years’ experience advising clients purely about divorce and related family law issues, such as the financial consequences of separating and divorcing. After establishing the first niche family law practice in Bristol, and going on to senior management roles in a national firm, John set up Apple Tree Family Law in 2018. Apple Tree Family Law solicitors specialise in advice about divorce and financial issues.

We are based in Bristol and Exeter, but we have clients all over the UK and further afield. We offer, simply, clear and accurate advice about divorce and family law issues, and the very best client service, for a clear and reasonable price.


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