“Sharp fall” in civil partnerships in 2015

Recent official statistics on civil partnerships

On 8 August 2016, the Office of National Statistics, (ONS) released the Statistical bulletin: Civil Partnerships in England and Wales: 2015 which showed a significant decrease in the number of civil partnerships formed during the year, and an increase in the number of civil partnerships that were dissolved during this period.

These latest data from ONS indicate:

  • There were 861 civil partnerships formed in England and Wales in 2015; this represents a fall of 49% from 1,683 in 2014, and of 85% since 2013;
  • Of civil partnerships formed in 2015, two-thirds (66%) were between men – the highest proportion since civil partnership formations were introduced in 2005
  • Nearly half (48%) of all civil partners forming a partnership in 2015 were aged 50 and over; this compares with 19% in 2013 prior to the introduction of marriages of same sex couples.
  • The mean age at formation for civil partners has risen to 48.5 years for men and 49.1 for women, compared with 40.8 years for men and 37.9 for women in 2013; The mean age is the sum of all age values divided by the total number of values, whereas the median age (used elsewhere in the document) is a value calculated by finding the middle age within the dataset.
  • There were 1,211 civil partnership dissolutions granted in 2015, a 14% increase compared with 2014. These data are derived from the numbers of civil partnerships and dissolutions taking place in England and Wales since the Civil Partnership Act came into force in December 2005 and are derived from information recorded by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) during the dissolution process, figures include annulments. However, this does not take into account the fact that some civil partnerships which took place in England or Wales may be dissolved in another country or that some dissolutions may take place in England or Wales for civil partnerships formed in another country.
  • By the end of 2015, 6.8% of male and 11.7% of female civil partnerships in England and Wales are estimated to have ended in dissolution.

Other trends include:

  • Two-thirds (66%) of civil partnerships formed in 2015 were between men – the highest proportion since civil partnerships were introduced in 2005. Initially, civil partnerships were more popular among men, accounting for 60% of the total in 2006. Between 2009 and 2013 the numbers of men and women was more even.
  • By contrast, provisional statistics on marriages of same sex couples show that more female than male couples married between 29 March 2014 and 30 June 2015.
  • The majority (84%) of those forming civil partnerships in 2015 were single (i.e. having never previously entered into a marriage or civil partnership); this compares with 87% in 2014 and 85% in 2013.
  • London has continually been the most popular region in England in which to form a civil partnership. In 2015, over a third (34%) of all civil partnerships were formed in London, compared with 31% in 2014, and 26% in 2013.
  • In the North East, Yorkshire and The Humber, and Wales, a greater number of civil partnerships were formed between women than men in 2015; this trend is different from that within England and Wales as a whole.
  • Brighton and Hove was the local authority with the largest number of civil partnership registrations in 2015, followed by Islington and Wandsworth


Civil partnership statistics are compiled “to enable the analysis of social and demographic trends. They are also used for considering and monitoring policy changes”. This is the first time that 2015 civil partnership statistics for England and Wales have been published. Civil partnerships formed in England and Wales in 2015 but received by ONS after 10 August 2016 are not included in this bulletin.

Statistics on marriages of same sex couples are published separately – figures will be included in the ONS annual Marriages in England and Wales release for the 2014 data year onwards

Elizabeth McLaren, Vital Statistics Outputs Branch, ONS summarized the findings, saying:

“Civil partnerships have fallen sharply since the introduction of marriages for same sex couples in March 2014. On the other hand, civil partnership dissolutions have increased due to the rising number of civil partnerships that were formed since they were introduced in December 2005. Dissolutions are likely to reduce in the future as more same sex couples form marriages instead of civil partnerships.”

With regard to the future of civil partnerships, the ONS is non-committal [emphasis added]:

“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 the opportunity for those in a civil partnership to convert that relationship to a marriage if they choose to do so and provisions that 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 (GEO) considers that it is too early to fully evaluate the impact of the introduction of marriage for same sex couples on civil partnerships – more years of data are required. GEO will therefore continue to monitor the number of civil partnership formations taking place in England and Wales.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "“Sharp fall” in civil partnerships in 2015" in Law & Religion UK, 10 September 2016, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2016/09/10/sharp-fall-in-civil-partnerships-in-2015/

3 thoughts on ““Sharp fall” in civil partnerships in 2015

  1. If for partnerships or marriages between people of the same sex there is no definition of consummation or adultery does the misnomer “equal marriage” have any legal status?

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