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How can I dissolve a civil partnership

How can I dissolve a civil partnership

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  • Advice

    To dissolve a civil partnership, civil partners will go through a similar process to divorce. 


    Dissolution of Civil Partnership:

    A civil partnership is a legal union between two people, giving them similar rights and responsibilities as a married couple. Initially introduced in 2004 to allow same-sex couples to formally register their relationship, the civil partnership was extended in 2019 to include opposite-sex couples.


    Before you apply to dissolve your civil partnership

    Before you can apply to dissolve your civil partnership in England & Wales, you must have been in your civil partnership for at least a year. In addition, you will need your original civil partnership certificate or a certified copy. This will be lodged at court when the process first begins.


    Current grounds for dissolution of civil partnership

    Currently, the law only provides one basis for the dissolution of a civil partnership, namely that the civil partnership "has broken down irretrievably". There is no such thing as 'irreconcilable differences' under English law. However, to prove that the civil partnership has "broken down irretrievably", you must verify one or more of the following 'facts. 

    • Your civil partner has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them (unreasonable behaviour);
    • Your civil partner has deserted you for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the dissolution petition (desertion);
    • You have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the dissolution petition, and your civil partner consents to the dissolution being granted (two years separation by consent); and
    • You have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the dissolution petition (5 years separation).

     Unlike divorce, "adultery" is not a ground for the dissolution of a civil partnership.


    Preparation of the dissolution of civil partnership papers

    It is possible to apply for a dissolution online yourself. However, obtaining professional advice will ensure that the dissolution petition and other documents are properly completed.


    Filing the civil partnership dissolution petition

    The dissolution process is started by one partner (then called the "petitioner") lodging a document (called a “dissolution petition”) with the court and submitting the relevant court fees. The petition sets out the details of the civil partnership, the parties, any children, and the dissolution grounds. The petitioner swears an affidavit (the legal term for a statement under oath) confirming the contents of the petition, which is then sent to the court.

    If there are children, you will also need a Statement of Arrangements for Children detailing whom the children will live with, where they go to school etc. The court "issues" a copy of the petition to your civil partner (who is then known as the "respondent").


    Acknowledgement of service

    When the respondent receives the dissolution petition, they are required to fill in an acknowledgement of service form to confirm that they have received it. They must then send this back to the court within seven days. The court forwards a copy to the petitioner.


    Contested and uncontested dissolution

    If the respondent agrees to the dissolution, it will be classed as undefended/uncontested. If the respondent disagrees, then it will be called a defended or contested dissolution, and the respondent will have a further 21 days to file appropriate papers with the court.


    Conditional order

    Like a divorce, the procedure for the dissolution of a civil partnership is two stages. However, instead of decree nisi and decree absolute, as is in a divorce, there is first a conditional order followed by a final order. The court staff will check the documents and, if it is an uncontested dissolution of civil partnership and the documents are approved, will send out a certificate of entitlement to a dissolution. This process is called making a conditional order. A conditional order means that the court is satisfied that the reasons are sufficient for dissolution to be granted. However, it does not mean that the civil partnership has been dissolved. 


    Final order

    Six weeks and a day after the date of the conditional order, the petitioner can apply for the "final order," which is the legal document that finally ends the civil partnership. If the petitioner does not apply, after a further three months, the respondent can apply. The final order is an important document and should be kept safe. 


    How we can help

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