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Rise in civil partnerships in 2018

Estimated read time: 3 mins

Carrie Tennick, October 15, 2019

England and Wales saw a total of 956 civil partnerships in 2018, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This was a rise of 5.3% from 2017, making it the third consecutive annual increase after a significant drop following the introduction of same-sex marriage in the UK.

However, the number of civil partnerships formed last year were still just one-sixth of the number seen in 2013 – the last year before the introduction of same-sex marriage.

Male couples forming more civil partnerships

Men made up the majority of people forming a civil partnership in 2018. Almost two-thirds (65%) of all civil partnerships were formed between men. This was a similar proportion to the number seen in 2017 (66%).

This is in contrast to the most recent statistics on marriage from the ONS, which found that less than half (44%) of same-sex couples getting married were male. The ONS said that between 2009 and 2013, the number of civil partnerships formed by male and female same-sex couples was broadly even. But since same-sex marriage was introduced, the proportion of male couples entering into civil partnerships has risen in comparison with female couples.

However, despite making up the minority of those forming civil partnerships, more than half (56%) of civil partnership dissolutions were between female couples.

Older couples more likely to form civil partnership

Women were also found to be older at the time of their partnership, according to the ONS. The average age for a woman entering into a civil partnership last year was 51.6, while it was 50.5 for men. This means the average age of couples forming these unions was 50.9 – a significant increase from the 2013 average of 39.3.

The organisation also found that 21% of those forming a civil partnership last year were 65 or older. This marks a huge jump from the 4% of people that age who entered into civil partnerships in 2013.

According to the ONS, the rising proportion of civil partnerships formed at older ages reflects the popularity of same-sex marriages among younger people – who may otherwise have entered into a civil partnership.

Indeed, the organisation’s 2016 marriage statistics show that nearly all (98%) marriages between same-sex couples were to people aged under 65, while 83% were to individuals aged under 50.

Civil partnerships to be available for all couples

Kanak Ghosh, of the ONS Vital Statistics Outputs Branch, said: “The number of same-sex couples forming a civil partnership increased slightly in 2018, for the third consecutive year. Just under 1,000 couples preferred this option to marriage. Those choosing to form a civil partnership are more likely to be male or over 50.

“The recent change in the law to make opposite-sex couples eligible to form civil partnerships from the end of this year is likely to bring further increases to the overall number of civil partnerships formed in England and Wales.”

The government recently explained that it intends to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples by the end of 2019. This will give all couples the choice of a civil partnership or marriage when looking to legalise their relationships.

For more information on the differences between marriage and civil partnership, we’ve put together a guide to help you decide which is best for you.

If you’d like legal advice about your civil partnership – or its dissolution – our specialist family law solicitors can help. Just get in touch – or start your enquiry – for more information.