The number of civil partnerships fell significantly in 2021 from those seen in 2020, new data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed.
Specifically, there were 6,731 civil partnerships formed in England and Wales in 2021, a decrease of 19.4% from the 8,351 seen in 2020. The ONS noted the data for both 2020 and 2021 would be affected to an extent by the restrictions around ceremonies and receptions as well as family court disruptions over the period.
The ONS said the majority of those 6,731 partnerships were formed by opposite-sex couples, though this still represents a 24.8% decrease from the 7,566 such partnerships seen in 2020, the first full year that opposite-sex civil partnerships were possible in England and Wales.
The number of same-sex civil partnerships, however, rose by 32.4% year-on-year to 1,039, with 56.9% of these being among male couples.
Around one in three males and females entering an opposite-sex civil partnership in 2021 had previously been married or in a civil partnership; less than one in five women, and one in six men, forming same-sex civil partnerships had previously been in a legally registered partnership.
The age distribution of people forming opposite-sex civil partnerships is older than those forming same-sex civil partnerships; more than half (58.1%) of all people forming opposite-sex civil partnerships in 2021 were aged 50 years and over, whereas this age group accounts for 44.9% of same-sex civil partners.
“Civil partnerships enable those who do not wish to be married to make a commitment to their partner,” said Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, commenting on the data. She continued:
“Once only available to same sex couples, their numbers are now largely fuelled by opposite sex couples, many of whom have either been married or in a civil partnership before. Leaving romance to the side, civil partnerships also come with important benefits from a financial point of view. For instance, death benefits from a pension can be paid out to civil partners and spouses in a way that certainly wouldn’t be automatic if you were cohabiting.
Many couples choose to cohabit long-term without realising the potential financial consequences. There is an idea that after a certain period of time you are seen to be in common-law marriage, but this is not the case.”