As of a new ruling in December 2019, both same-sex and mixed-sex couples are now able to enter into a civil partnership as an alternative to marriage. Civil partnerships award many of the same rights to a couple as marriage does, and the dissolution of a civil partnership is similar in many ways to divorce, but there are a few differences that are worth noting when it comes to separation, for example:
- It is not possible to void or ‘annul’ a civil partnership on the basis of non-consummation.
- You can only cite adultery as a ground for dissolution (or divorce) in the case of mixed-sex infidelity.
- To end a civil partnership, you must apply to the court for a ‘dissolution order’ and you may only do this if your civil partnership has lasted at least one year.
Besides this, the process of a dissolution follows much the same procedure as a divorce. After applying for a dissolution order, you must prove that the relationship has ‘irretrievably’ broken down on a permanent basis based on one of the following reasons:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- You have lived apart for at least 2 years and both agree to the dissolution
- You have lived apart for at least 5 years if only one of you agrees to the dissolution
- Desertion of a period of at least 2 years
If your partner agrees to the decision and reasons for separation, you will be offered a conditional offer of dissolution by the court, and the dissolution will be made final six weeks from the date of the conditional order. If you have been together for less than a year you can apply for a separation order which will allow you to deal with financial issues and agree the details of your separation but will not end your civil partnership entirely. You will need to wait until one year has passed from your civil partnership to apply for a dissolution order and complete the process.
As with any kind of separation, you will also need to negotiate a financial settlement, living arrangements, and co-parenting plans or arrangements for any dependent children. No matter how amicable your situation may be, it’s always best to consult a solicitor for advice about all these issues, and the best way to divide up assets and liabilities to ensure you both have as stable a financial future as possible. If there are children involved and you both have parental responsibility, you will need to consider how you will handle and share ongoing childcare, living costs, and your child/ren’s health, education and welfare.
In all cases, it’s best to try to come to as much of an agreement on the logistics of your separation before you proceed with dissolution. There are several ways to resolve relationship disputes without taking your case to court, including mediation, arbitration, and collaborative family law – all of which allow you to negotiate a beneficial outcome based on cooperation and communication with the advice and support of a legal professional.
If you’re unable to come to an agreement or if your partner does not agree to the dissolution you may need to pursue further litigation or a court order to resolve financial issues or children’s arrangements. However, the court will usually require you attend a meeting with a family mediator before it considers your application.
For advice on the dissolution of a civil partnership, or more information on the options for separation or divorce, you can book a free 45-minute consultation with one of our family lawyers to discuss your situation. We know every case is unique and every circumstance requires a tailored approach – let us take the weight off your shoulders and help you to find a solution that is right for you.