What are my rights and obligations within marriage and civil partnership?

Being married or in a civil partnership entails certain rights and obligations. These include maintenance and rights of inheritance.

Use of each other’s surname

You may use your partner’s surname. This may be in combination with your own surname, but not in official documents (such as your passport or driving licence). You must always use your own surname in these documents.

Not mandatory to testify in court cases

You are not required to testify against your spouse or civil partner in a court case. This is known as the right to decline to give evidence. The right to decline to give evidence also applies to members of your family and members of your spouse’s or civil partner’s family.

Performing legal acts

You and your spouse or civil partner need each other’s permission for certain acts or decisions, for example the sale of a house in which both of you live.


You and your spouse or civil partner have a responsibility to support each other financially. You both have a duty to provide for each other’s maintenance.

Rights of inheritance

Married and civil partners are each other’s legal heirs. You may, however, appoint someone else as your heir in your will.

Entitlement to pension

A pension scheme enables you to build up rights to an old age pension. If you divorce or end your civil partnership, the pension rights built up during your marriage or civil partnership will be divided between you, unless you agree otherwise.

Many pension schemes also enable you to build up rights to a surviving dependants’ pension. A surviving dependants’ pension is an allowance you receive if your spouse or civil partner (who built up the pension rights) dies. For more information, contact your pension provider.