The number of civil partnerships formed in the UK in 2013 was 6,276, a decrease of 11% since 2012
The mean age of men forming a civil partnership in the UK in 2013 was 40.6 years, while for women it was 37.8 years. These figures represent a small increase in mean ages when compared to 2012
The number of civil partnership dissolutions granted in England and Wales in 2013 was 974, an increase of 20% since 2012
This bulletin presents annual statistics on civil partnership formations in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2013. Statistics on civil partnership dissolutions in Northern Ireland, England and Wales in 2013 are also reported. Dissolution statistics for Scotland and the UK are not currently available for 2013 (see background note 2).
Civil partnerships are a legal recognition of a relationship between two people of the same sex (see background note 1). 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. All figures are final.
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 2013 civil partnership statistics for the UK and England and Wales.
The publication of Civil Partnerships in the UK, 2013, is later than originally planned. Changes in data collection methodology for civil partnership dissolutions data (see background note 3), required more time to be spent on quality assurance, in particular ensuring completeness of the dissolutions dataset. Depending upon the findings from the Civil Partnership Consultation published alongside this release, ONS plan to publish Civil Partnership Statistics for 2014 between July and October 2015.Back to table of contents
In 2013, the number of civil partnerships formed in the UK by same sex couples decreased by 11% to 6,276, from 7,037 in 2012. Since the Civil Partnership Act came into force in December 2005, the total number of civil partnerships formed in the UK, up to the end of 2013, is 66,730.
There were more people in civil partnerships by 2010 than 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, there were over 79,000 people in civil partnerships in Great Britain.
The number of civil partnership formations decreased in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in 2013, with a decrease of 12% in England (5,381 partnerships), 7.7% in Scotland (530 partnerships), and a slight decrease of 1.0% in Northern Ireland (100 partnerships). The number of civil partnership formations in Wales increased by 2.3% (265 partnerships) in 2013.
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 1,569 per quarter in 2013. 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 (Andersson et al., 2006).
The decrease in the number of civil partnership formations in England in 2013 may be due to the fact that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 came into effect on 29 March 2014. Some couples may have delayed entering into a civil partnership if their preference was to get married rather than form a civil partnership.Back to table of contents
In 2013, there were more female civil partnership formations (53%) in the UK than male, which is similar to 2012 when 51% of civil partnerships were to female couples. 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 after (Andersson et al., 2006).
In 2013, there were more female civil partnerships than male in all of the UK constituent countries, with 52% in England, 65% in Wales, 59% in Scotland and 54% in Northern Ireland being female.
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The mean age at formation of civil partnership in the UK rose slightly from 40.0 years in 2012 to 40.6 in 2013 for men, and from 37.6 years in 2012 to 37.8 in 2013 for women (Figure 3).
The mean age at civil partnership formation for all partners in 2013 was highest in England (39.3 years) and lowest in Northern Ireland (35.3 years). The mean age in Wales was 38.5 years, while in Scotland it was 38.0 years. The mean age at formation of female civil partnerships was highest in England (38.0 years) and lowest in Northern Ireland (35.0 years), while the mean age at formation of male civil partnerships was highest in Wales (42.1 years) and lowest in Northern Ireland (35.6 years).
Figure 4 shows that in 2013, there were more female civil partners in the lower age groups than males (under 45) and more male civil partners in the higher age groups than females (45 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 25-29 for females and 30-34 for males. In 2012, the most common age groups for both men and women to form a civil partnership was 30-34.Back to table of contents
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 2013, 26% of all civil partnerships in England and Wales were registered there (1,495 civil partnerships).
The local authorities with the largest number of civil partnership registrations in 2013 were Brighton and Hove unitary authority (78 male and 104 female partnerships) and the London borough of Westminster (133 male and 46 female 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 register 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 2013, the majority (74%) of civil partnerships formed in the UK were to couples where both partners were single (have never previously entered into a marriage or civil partnership). However, 10% 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 2012.
The proportion of those forming a civil partnership who had been in a previous marriage or civil partnership in 2013, was highest in Wales (16%) and lowest in Northern Ireland (12%). The proportion in Scotland and England was 15%.
In 2013, there were 316 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 at least 12 months.
The number of civil partnership dissolutions in the UK in 2013 is not currently available as 2013 dissolution figures for Scotland are not yet available (see background note 2).
There were 974 civil partnership dissolutions granted in England and Wales in 2013, compared with 809 in 2012 (a 20% increase). There were 10 civil partnership dissolutions in Northern Ireland in 2013. The rising number of dissolutions is in part a consequence of the increasing number of civil partners living in the UK.
By the end of 2013, 4.5% of male civil partnerships in England and Wales had ended in dissolution, while 8.4% of all female partnerships in England and Wales had ended in dissolution (see background note 8).
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Of the 974 dissolutions in England and Wales in 2013, 59% were to female couples (576 dissolutions) while the remaining 41% were to male couples (398 dissolutions). There were also more women dissolving civil partnerships than men in Northern Ireland. 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 age at dissolution of civil partnership in England and Wales in 2013 was 39.5 years for men (an increase from 38.9 years in 2012) and 39.3 for women (an increase from 38.7 years in 2012).
The average age of all partners dissolving a civil partnership in 2013 was higher in Northern Ireland (42.3 years) than in England and Wales (39.4 years).
In 2013, more females than males dissolved their civil partnership at ages under 60 while more males dissolved their civil partnership at ages 60 and over (Figure 6). This reflects the higher age at formation of civil partnerships for men than women.
The majority (82%) of civil partnership dissolutions in England and Wales in 2013 were to partners whose previous partnership status had always been single. However, 9.7% of men and 15% of women dissolving a civil partnership in England and Wales had been in a previous marriage or civil partnership, these have decreased from 10% and 17% in 2012 respectively.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 a hotel) or on religious premises (provided that the religious organisation concerned is in agreement with the marriage being solemnised through a religious ceremony).
ONS ran a public consultation on user requirements for marriage, divorce and civil partnership statistics for England and Wales from 8 October 2013 to 17 December 2013. In response to this consultation, ONS intends to change the way in which marriages, divorces and civil partnerships data are published from 2015 onwards. ONS plans to publish a selection of summary tables for each topic; these summary tables will provide a significant time series for comparison. Alongside these summary tables, ONS plans to publish explorable datasets and anonymised microdata, both of which can be used to obtain more detailed statistics for a particular calendar year. A document summarising responses to the consultation and future plans is published on the ONS website.Back to table of contents
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 enabled same sex couples in England and Wales to obtain legal recognition of their relationship by registering as civil partners of each other. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 enabled same sex couples in England and Wales to marry from 29 March 2014. It also has a number of related provisions, including for those in a civil partnership to convert that relationship to a marriage if they choose to do so and provisions that will enable a person to change their legal gender without ending their existing marriage. These other provisions came into force on 10 December 2014. The Act does not remove the availability of civil partnerships for same sex couples.
The Government Equalities Office carried out a review of the future of civil partnerships in England and Wales including a full public consultation which ran between 23 January and 17 April 2014. They received over 10,000 responses to the consultation.
Several important organisations thought it was too soon to consider making changes to civil partnership legislation - this should wait until the impact of extending marriage to same sex couples is known. Other organisations, in contrast, put forward a case for opening up civil partnerships to opposite sex couples, for example because civil partnership and marriage were different relationships and all couples should have equal access to both.
Given the lack of consensus on the way forward, the Government will not be making any changes to the Civil Partnership Act 2004.Back to table of contents
Currently, ONS produces figures for England and Wales and compiles UK figures using data from all constituent countries. Figures for Scotland and Northern Ireland are provided by National Records of Scotland (NRS), Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Each organisation publishes civil partnership statistics at different times throughout the year, sometimes with a first release of provisional figures which are finalised in a later publication.
Several factors impact on the timing of the annual UK civil partnership statistics release, resulting in published figures being a mix of provisional and final data. To ensure a more timely publication of final figures, ONS is proposing to change the coverage of the annual release of civil partnership statistics to provide figures for England and Wales only. Figures for the UK, Scotland and Northern Ireland would not be included within the release. Figures for Scotland and Northern Ireland would continue to be published by NRS (formations), Scottish Government (dissolutions), and NISRA. Summary figures for the UK and constituent countries would continue to be published annually in the Vital Statistics: Population and Health Reference Tables. A consultation document is available on the ONS website. The consultation is running until 29 March 2015.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 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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