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HMRC internal manual

Inheritance Tax Manual

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Communications: General instructions: Civil Partnerships: Notes on terminology and language

The following words and phrases should be used when referring to marriage and civil partnerships.

The words and phrases are for general use. Some words and phrases (‘relative’ for example) have a particular meaning ascribed to them by the legislation. Care should be taken when it is necessary to preserve that meaning.

  • Spouse - (i) one member of a married couple, and also (ii) the legal status of that member with respect to the other. Spouse does not include civil partner
  • Civil partner - (i) shorthand for each member of a couple who have formed a civil partnership; also (ii) the legal status of each member of a couple who have formed a civil partnership by registering as civil partners of each other - in the same way as spouse is used to describe both each member of the married couple and the legal status of one with respect to the other. Where we are talking about civil partnerships or civil partners, we always prefix it with the word “civil”. We do not use the term “partner” or “registered partner”.
  • Civil partnership - the legal relationship existing between two civil partners
  • To form a civil partnership - the process of two people entering into a civil partnership is known as ‘forming’ a civil partnership. This is distinct from ‘registering’ a civil partnership (see below)
  • To register as civil partners (of each other) - to carry out the requirements of forming a civil partnership (including signing the civil partnership document (either the civil partnership schedule or (under the special procedure) the Registrar General’s licence)). We refer to registering as civil partners (of each other), rather than entering a civil partnership
  • Widow / widower - a man or woman whose marriage has ended through the death of his or her spouse
  • Widowed - the state of being a widow or widower
  • Surviving civil partner - a person whose civil partnership has ended through the death of his or her civil partner. (Note that we have not chosen an equivalent term to “widowed” - we use “he or she is a surviving civil partner”)
  • Fiancé / fiancée - a man or woman who has agreed to marry at some time in the future
  • Engaged - the state of being a fiancé or fiancée
  • Proposed civil partner - a person who has agreed to form a civil partnership with someone else in the future, including those who have already given their notices of proposed civil partnership. (Again, there is no equivalent to ‘engaged’ - instead we use ‘have agreed to form a civil partnership’ or ‘is a proposed civil partner’ as appropriate)
  • Divorce / annulment - the procedure used to dissolve or annul a marriage
  • Dissolution / annulment - the equivalent procedure used to dissolve or annul a civil partnership
  • Divorced - the state of being a former spouse, whose marriage has been dissolved
  • Person whose civil partnership has been dissolved - the state of being a former civil partner, whose civil partnership has been dissolved
  • Marital status - status of an individual in terms of whether they are single, married, separated, divorced or widowed
  • Marital or civil partnership status - status of an individual in terms of whether they are single, married, in a civil partnership, separated, divorced, a person whose civil partnership has been dissolved, widowed or a bereaved civil partner. Where references to ‘marital status’ need to be changed to reflect the new civil partnership statuses, the term ‘marital or civil partnership status’ should be used. Where this is used on forms to obtain information, the equivalent marriage and civil partnership statuses should be grouped together, unless there is a specific need to identify people in one or other category. (e.g. married or in a civil partnership, divorced or civil partnership dissolved etc). This will ensure that people who do not wish to reveal their sexual orientation are not required to do so
  • Relatives - two or more people between whom there exists a blood relationship or a relationship created by marriage or a relationship created by civil partnership. For example - brother and sister, brother and sister’s husband, brother and sister’s civil partner
  • Family - we will use family in a loose sense, to encompass all ‘relatives’ (as defined above) and also all relationships created through unmarried or unregistered adult couple relationships that society is likely to regard as a family relationship. For example - brother and sister, brother and sister’s opposite-sex partner, brother and sister’s unregistered same-sex partner, a child and an adult who is raising him or her)
  • Matrimonial home - home shared or intended to be shared by a married opposite-sex couple
  • Civil partnership home - home shared by or intended to be shared by a same-sex couple in a civil partnership
  • Matrimonial / Marital - of or pertaining to marriage
  • Of or pertaining to civil partnership - of or pertaining to civil partnership
  • Legally recognised relationship - over-arching term to civil partnership
  • Living together as husband and wife - a term describing an opposite-sex couple who share a home, subject to the ‘living together test’
  • Living together as if they were civil partners - a term describing a same-sex couple who share a home but who are not civil partners, subject to the ‘living together test’

Step relationships and in-laws

We see relationships as arising out of civil partnerships in the same way as they arise out of marriage. We have applied the terms already used for relationships arising following the formation of a civil partnership. This approach has the advantage of simplicity and we do not want to create new terms altogether, since we think it unlikely that they would be used by people in their day-to-day lives. To this end, the Civil Partnership Bill introduces a rule for interpreting references in existing legislation to step-child or step-parent. For legislation passed after the commencement of the Civil Partnership Bill references to these words may be interpreted by reference to civil partnership as well as to marriage. The rules are set out below:

A’s stepchild includes a person who is the child of A’s civil partner (but is not A’s child);

A’s step-parent includes a person who is the civil partner of A’s parent (but is not A’s parent);

A’s stepdaughter includes a person who is the daughter of A’s civil partner (but is not A’s daughter);

A’s stepson includes a person who is the son of A’s civil partner (but is not A’s son);

A’s stepfather includes a person who is the civil partner of A’s father (but is not A’s parent)

A’s stepmother includes a person who is the civil partner of A’s mother (but is not A’s parent)

A’s stepbrother includes a person who is the son of the civil partner of A’s parent (but is not the son of either of A’s parents)

A’s stepsister includes a person who is the daughter of the civil partner of A’s parent (but is not the daughter of either of A’s parents)

“brother-in-law” includes civil partner’s brother

“daughter-in-law” includes daughter’s civil partner

“father-in-law” includes civil partner’s father

“mother-in-law” includes civil partner’s mother

“parent-in-law” includes civil partner’s parent

“sister-in-law” includes civil partner’s sister

“son-in-law” includes son’s civil partner