By Family Law Paralegal, Harry Low
When a couple decide to separate and legally end (or 'dissolve') their civil partnership, this is called civil partnership dissolution. This article explains how the process works for legally ending a civil partnership.
Reasons for Civil Partnership Dissolution
To apply to the Court to dissolve a civil partnership, the couple must have been in their civil partnership for at least one year. One person will make an application to the Court to end the civil partnership – this person is called the applicant. The other person is called the respondent.
The applicant must be able to show that the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. This will be shown using one of the four reasons shown below:
- Unreasonable behaviour – The applicant must list several examples of how the respondent's behaviour has resulted in the breakdown of the civil partnership. This can include inappropriate relationships with someone else (regardless of gender).
- 2 years' separation – If the couple has lived apart for 2 years or more and both agree to the dissolution, the application can be made on this basis.
- 5 years' separation – If the couple has lived apart for 5 years, the application can be made on this basis regardless of whether both people agree to the dissolution.
- Desertion – If one person has left and not returned for at least 2 years, then this can be cited as the reason for the relationship breakdown.
Unlike divorce, you cannot apply for civil partnership dissolution on the grounds of adultery.
The Process for Civil Partnership Dissolution
Once you have established the reason for your civil partnership dissolution, you will need to make your application to the Court, by completing and submitting a dissolution petition. If you have instructed a Family Law Solicitor, then they will complete and submit the dissolution petition for you. Once this has been received by the Court, they will review this before sending it on (or 'issuing' it) to the respondent.
If your partner agrees to the dissolution of the civil partnership, you will be granted a conditional order by the Court. This means that the first 2 stages of the dissolution have been completed.
If your partner does not agree to the dissolution, you may be required to attend Court and present your petition to the judge at a hearing. This is very rare, but if this happens then the dissolution process is likely to cost more.
You must wait 6 weeks from the date the conditional order was made before you can apply for your dissolution to be made final with a Final Order. Once the Final Order has been granted by the Court, the civil partnership will legally end.
Resolving Financial Matters
It is important to remember that the Final Order will not resolve any financial commitments you may have from the civil partnership. You will need to make a financial application to the Court to resolve these issues and sever any financial ties you have to your ex-partner. If you are both in agreement to how the finances are to be divided, you can apply to the Court for a Financial Order. If you cannot reach an agreement, you may want to instruct a Solicitor to negotiate a financial agreement for you. This is called a contested financial order.
Resolving Child Custody and Residency Matters
You must also remember that the civil partnership dissolution will not make arrangements for any children you and your ex-partner have together. If you are able to come to a mutual agreement on child care and residency, you may not need to seek assistance from a Solicitor or the Court. If however you cannot reach an agreement, you may want to consider making a Child Arrangements Order.