A short history of marriage and civil partnership in Scotland
Marriage is an ancient institution. Its nature and what it means to society and couples who marry has developed over hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
Marriage has been available to mixed sex couples in Scotland for centuries. It became available to same sex couples on 16 December 2014.
Civil partnership became available to same sex couples in Scotland and across the UK in 2005.
At that time marriage was not available to same sex couples. Civil partnership provided a way for same sex couples to access the same rights, benefits and responsibilities which come from entering a marriage.
Mixed sex civil partnership was introduced in Scotland in June 2021.
Living together in Scotland
Couples in Scotland who live together (cohabit) have some legal rights, including:
- Rights to certain items in their shared household
- Rights to certain money and property
- The right to apply to court for financial provision for the couple decide to end the relationship. These applications have to be submitted to the court within one year of the couple ceasing to live together.
- The right to apply to court for an order relating to money or property if one person in the relationship dies without leaving a will. These applications have to be submitted to the court within six months of the death.
What about common law marriage?
Sometimes "common law marriage" is used to describe two people who are not married or in a civil partnership, but live together as if they are. In Scottish law, there is no such thing as a "common law marriage".
It used to be possible for mixed sex couples to form a "marriage by cohabitation with habit and repute". This type of marriage could be established through an application to court which showed that the relationship met certain conditions.
The law which enabled "marriage by cohabitation with habit and repute" was abolished in 2006.
It is still possible to apply to court to establish a "marriage by cohabitation with habit and repute", but only if the relationship met the conditions before the law was changed in 2006. It is very rare for this type of marriage to be established now.
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