The provisional number of civil partnerships in the UK in 2012 was 7,037, an increase of 3.6% since 2011
The average age of men forming a civil partnership in the UK in 2012 was 40.0 years, while for women the average age was 37.6 years. These figures represent a small decrease in average ages in comparison to 2011
The provisional number of civil partnership dissolutions granted in England and Wales in 2012 was 794, an increase of 20% since 2011
This bulletin presents annual statistics on civil partnerships that were formed in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2012. Statistics on civil partnership dissolutions in Northern Ireland and England and Wales in 2012 are also reported. Dissolution statistics for Scotland and the UK are not currently available (see background note 3).
Civil partnerships are a legal recognition of a relationship between two people of the same sex. A dissolution is a legal end to a civil partnership obtained through the courts.
Civil partnership statistics are analysed by sex, age, previous marital status and area of occurrence. Figures on formations for Northern Ireland and the UK in 2012 are provisional. All dissolution figures are provisional.
The civil partnership formation statistics are derived from information recorded when civil partnerships are registered as part of civil registration, as required by law. Civil partnership dissolution statistics have been compiled from court records and include annulments.
This is the first time that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published annual 2012 civil partnership statistics for the UK and England and Wales.Back to table of contents
In 2012, the number of civil partnerships formed in the UK by same sex couples was 7,037, compared with 6,795 in 2011. This represents an increase of 3.6%. The total number of civil partnerships formed in the UK since the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force in December 2005, up to the end of 2012 is 60,454. This is the equivalent to 120,908 civil partners which is much higher than was originally estimated in the regulatory impact assessment on the Civil Partnership Act 2004. The impact assessment suggested that by 2010 the estimated likely take-up of civil partnerships in Great Britain would be between 11,000 and 22,000 people in civil partnerships (Government Equalities Office, 2004). At the start of 2010, over 79,000 people had entered into a civil partnership in Great Britain.
The number of civil partnership formations increased in all four constituent countries in 2012, with an increase of 3.4% in England (6,103 partnerships), 3.6% in Scotland (574 partnerships), 2.8% in Wales (259 partnerships) and 13% in Northern Ireland (101 partnerships).
The number of civil partnerships in the UK peaked in the first quarter of 2006 at 4,869 (Figure 1). The high numbers for 2006 are likely to be a result of many same sex couples in long-standing relationships taking advantage of the opportunity to formalise their relationship as soon as the legislation was implemented. The number of civil partnerships has since fallen to an average of 1,759 per quarter in 2012. This trend is similar to that found in Norway and Sweden where there was a particularly high level of formations immediately after legislation was introduced, followed by a few years of stable numbers at a lower level and an increase in most recent years (Andersson et al., 2006).
In 2012, less than one person per 1,000 unmarried adults aged 16 and over entered into a civil partnership in England and Wales. Civil partnership rates cannot be calculated for the UK or Northern Ireland or Scotland as both Northern Ireland and Scotland do not currently produce population estimates by marital status (see background note 9).Back to table of contents
In 2012, there were slightly more female civil partnerships (51%) in the UK than male, whereas in 2011 there were slightly more male civil partnerships (51%) than female. 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 2). This is similar to trends recorded in other European countries where the majority of early same sex partnerships were formed by male couples with figures for males and females converging a few years later (Andersson et al., 2006).
In 2012, the proportions of male and female civil partnerships in England and Northern Ireland were equal. There were lower proportions of male civil partnerships in Scotland (45%) and Wales (37%).
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The mean (average) age at formation of civil partnership in the UK fell slightly from 40.1 years in 2011 to 40.0 in 2012 for men, and for women from 38.3 years in 2011 to 37.6 in 2012. The average age at formation has been decreasing year on year as older couples who had waited for the introduction of the legislation took the opportunity to form a civil partnership early on (Figure 3).
The average age at civil partnership formation for all partners in 2012 was highest in England (38.9 years) and lowest in Northern Ireland (35.4 years). The average age in Wales was 37.9 years, while in Scotland it was 38.4 years. The average age at formation of female civil partnerships was highest in Scotland (38.2 years) and lowest in Northern Ireland (35.5 years), while the average age at formation of male civil partnerships was highest in Wales (40.2 years) and lowest in Northern Ireland (35.3 years).
Figure 4 shows that in 2012, there were more female civil partners in the lower age groups (under 40) and more male civil partners in the higher age groups (40 and over). This reflects the higher average age at formation of civil partnerships for men than women. The highest proportions of civil partners were those aged 30-34 for both males and females. In 2011, the most common age groups for both men and women to form a civil partnership was also 30-34, while in 2010 it was 40-44 for males and 35-39 for females.Back to table of contents
The local authorities with the largest number of civil partnership registrations in 2012 were the London borough of Westminster (171 male and 53 female partnerships) and Brighton and Hove unitary authority (119 male and 101 female partnerships).
London has been the most popular region in England and Wales to register a civil partnership every year since the legislation was introduced in 2005. In 2012, 25% of all civil partnerships in England and Wales were registered there (1,618 civil partnerships).
The distribution of civil partnership formations across England and Wales by county, unitary authority, metropolitan district and London borough is not evenly spread. A couple may choose to register their civil partnership in any registry office or approved location across the UK. Data by area represent the area in which the partnership was registered and are not necessarily a good indicator of the area of usual residence.Back to table of contents
In 2012, the majority (74%) of civil partnerships formed in the UK were to couples where both partners were single. However, 11% of men and 19% of women forming a civil partnership in the UK had been in a previous marriage or civil partnership. These were similar to the proportions for 2011.
The proportion of those forming a civil partnership who had been in a previous marriage or civil partnership in 2012, was highest in Wales (18%) and lowest in Northern Ireland (11%). The proportion in Scotland was 16%, while in England it was 15%. In 2012 there were 307 people forming a civil partnership in the UK who had been in a previous civil partnership which had ended by dissolution or death.Back to table of contents
To obtain a civil partnership dissolution in the UK, a couple must have been in either a registered civil partnership or a same sex partnership recognised abroad for 12 months. The number of civil partnership dissolutions in the UK is not currently available as 2012 dissolution figures for Scotland are not yet available (see background note 3).There were 794 civil partnership dissolutions granted in England and Wales in 2012, compared with 663 in 2011 (a 20% increase). There were 10 civil partnership dissolutions in Northern Ireland in 2012. The rising number of dissolutions is a consequence of the increasing number of civil partners living in the UK.
By the end of 2012, 3.2% of male civil partnerships in the England and Wales had ended in dissolution, while 6.1% of all female partnerships in England and Wales had ended in dissolution (see background note 8).
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In 2012, 57% of all dissolutions in England and Wales were to female couples (455 dissolutions) while the remaining 43% were to male couples (339 dissolutions). There were also more women dissolving civil partnerships than men in Northern Ireland, with six female civil partnership dissolutions and four male civil partnership dissolutions. Higher numbers of dissolutions among female than male partnerships are also seen in other countries with same sex partnership laws, such as Norway and Sweden (Andersson et al., 2006).
The mean (average) age at dissolution of civil partnership in England and Wales in 2012 was 38.9 years for men (an increase from 38.8 years in 2011) and 38.3 for women (a decrease from 38.7 years in 2011). Male civil partners are on average older than females when they dissolve a civil partnership. This reflects the higher age at formation of civil partnerships for men than women.
The average age of all partners dissolving a civil partnership in 2012 was higher in Northern Ireland (40.3 years) than in England and Wales (38.6 years).
In 2012, more females than males dissolved their civil partnership at ages under 30 and 45-59 while more males dissolved their civil partnership at ages 30-44 and 60 and over (Figure 6). In 2012, the majority (84%) of civil partnership dissolutions in England and Wales were to partners whose previous partnership status was single. However, 9.9% of men (an increase from 9.2% in 2011) and 17% of women (a decrease from 19% in 2011) dissolving a civil partnership in England and Wales had been in a previous marriage or civil partnership.Back to table of contents
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 makes provision for the marriage of same sex couples in England and Wales, either in a civil ceremony (in a register office or approved premise for example hotel) or on religious premises (provided that the religious organisation concerned is in agreement with the marriage being solemnised through a religious ceremony). This will impact on marriage, divorce and civil partnership statistics which ONS publishes. ONS therefore wishes to understand user requirements for published statistics on marriages, divorces and civil partnership formations and dissolutions. A consultation is running between 8 October and 17 December 2013.
The Act does not remove the availability of civil partnerships. The operation and future of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 in England and Wales is being reviewed by the Government Equalities Office. There will be a full public consultation and a public report on the outcome of the review.Back to table of contents
Key users of civil partnership statistics include the Government Equalities Office (GEO). GEO takes the lead on all civil partnership matters and uses Office for National Statistics (ONS) data for answering any policy-based questions they receive.
Organisations covering gay and lesbian rights and equality issues, for example, Stonewall, use ONS civil partnership statistics to support their campaigns and pass on the data to their own users. Businesses such as civil partnership celebration planners (for example Pink Weddings) use the data published by area as a prediction of the amount of business they might expect.Back to table of contents
Contact details for this Statistical bulletin
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