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Trends in civil partnerships: How will marriages to same sex couples change statistics?

Latest ONS statistics on civil partnerships in the UK in 2012

The latest ONS statistics reveal that 7,037 civil partnerships were formed in the UK in 2012, an increase of 3.6% since 2011. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force on 5 December 2005 and enabled same sex couples to obtain legal recognition of their relationship. The Government Equalities Office originally estimated that there would be between 11,000 and 22,000 civil partners in Great Britain by 2010, but there were actually over 79,000 people in civil partnerships at the start of 2010.

Civil partnership trends since their introduction in 2005

The number of civil partnerships in the UK peaked in the first quarter of 2006 at 4,869. This was because many same sex couples in long standing relationships took advantage of the opportunity to formalise their relationship as soon as the legislation was implemented in December 2005. The number of civil partnership formations has since decreased, fluctuating between 6,200 and 7,200 per year since 2008.  Initially the numbers of males forming civil partnerships were much higher than females, but the numbers of male and female civil partnerships converged in 2009/10 (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Civil partnership formations by sex and civil partnership dissolutions

United Kingdom

Figure 1: Civil partnership formations by sex and civil partnership dissolutions

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The average age to form a civil partnership has been decreasing year on year as older couples that had been waiting for the legislation took the opportunity to form a civil partnership early on. The most common age group for men and women to form a civil partnership in 2012 was 30-34.  There were more female civil partners in the younger age groups (under 40) and more male civil partners in the older age groups (40 and over).

London has consistently proved to be the most popular area to form a civil partnership with 25% of all civil partnerships in 2012 registered there, while Brighton and Hove unitary authority has also been popular.

Female civil partnerships more likely to end in dissolution

The equivalent of divorce for civil partnerships is ‘dissolution.’ There were 794 dissolutions of civil partnerships granted in England and Wales in 2012, which was an increase of 20% since 2011. The rising number of dissolutions is a consequence of the increasing number of civil partners living in England and Wales. By the end of 2012, 3.2% of male and 6.1% of female civil partnerships in England and Wales had ended in dissolution.

What’s the impact of the introduction of marriage to same sex couples?

The operation and future of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 will be reviewed in light of the introduction of the Marriages (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. The government anticipates the first marriages to same sex couples will take place by summer 2014 while other elements such as arranging for conversions of civil partnerships to marriage will follow later. These changes will of course impact on the way ONS produces marriage, divorce and civil partnership statistics. ONS is therefore holding a public consultation and aims to make the statistics as useful and relevant to the public as possible, taking into account the change the Act will bring about.

Where can I find more civil partnership statistics?

If you’d like to find out more about the latest civil partnership statistics, please read our latest release. If you have any comments or suggestions, we’d like to hear them! Please email us at: If you would like to be involved in the public consultation, it is running between October 8th and December 17th.

Categories: Population, Families, Marriages, Cohabitations, Civil Partnerships and Divorces, Civil Partnerships
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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