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A civil partnership should not be entered into lightly. It is fundamentally similar to marriage, conferring all the rights and privileges heterosexual couples get with marriage.

One of the most important is next-of-kin rights, but also includes tax and inheritance rights.

Next of kin rights allow you to receive your partner's pension should he/she die. You can also register his/her death.

Civil partnerships are legally binding and you may end up providing maintenance to your civil partner (and any children involved). If any state benefits are being claimed, you will be treated exactly like any married couple.

If things go horribly wrong, then you would need to obtain a dissolution to end the partnership.

Employers now have to treat couples who have a civil partnership no differently to married heterosexual couples.

You cannot get married in a church, but anywhere that has a license to conduct civil services. You can shape your own ceremony - the only necessities are your signatures and those of two witnesses.

To set your civil partnership in motion, firstly go to the registrar's office in person to give formal notice of your intention to register your partnership. You can register locally, but not necessarily have the ceremony locally. You can even have a blessing in a church or other religious venue, providing you find a gay-friendly vicar or religious leader.

You have to wait at least 15 days after you register your decision to formalise your partnership, but you can be planning your ceremony well before registering.

A very useful source of information is The General Register Office. It's website (www.gro.gov.uk) offers advice and can answer any questions you may have as well as having a list of licensed venues. If you live in Scotland, then you need the General Register Office for Scotland (www.gro-scotland.gov.uk).

Other useful sources of information include:

www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk for information on taxation implications

www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk for benefits information

www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk for advice when one partner comes from abroad. The UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group can also help (www.ukgig.org.uk)

www.thepensionservice.gov.uk for pension information

www.dfes.gov.uk/adoption for adoption advice relating to your partner's children

But the best way to find out all you need to know is to contact willb and let me take the hassle away from you and provide you will all the information you require.

All content copyright William Bruce.