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How does divorce work in a Civil Partnership?

Because a civil partnership is a legally-registered relationship, anyone wishing to end the partnership must do so through a legal process. A civil partnership may be ended in one of 3 ways:

  • A dissolution order
  • A separation order
  • An annulment

What is a dissolution order?

Similar to a divorce, anyone seeking a dissolution order must apply through the courts for the order to be granted.  The petitioner must prove that the partnership has irretrievably broken down due to one of the following reasons:

  1. Unreasonable behaviour by the other partner
  2. The couple have lived apart for 2 years and both agree to the dissolution
  3. The couple have been separated for 5 years (but one partner does not agree to the dissolution) 
  4. One partner deserted the other more than 2 years ago

Unreasonable behaviour may include incidents of physical, mental or verbal abuse or cruelty; financial irresponsibility; being sexually unfaithful and/or passing on certain sexually transmitted diseases. The category can include a very wide range of behaviours, from serious examples of abuse to seemingly minor annoyances.

You will need to provide evidence of this behaviour.

However, you may only apply for a dissolution order if your civil partnership has lasted for more than a year.

Separation order

If you do not wish to completely dissolve the partnership you may apply for a separation order for the same reasons as for a dissolution order. However neither party would be free to enter another civil partnership nor to marry. A dissolution order may be applied for at a later date, using the same evidence as for the separation order, without further proof being required.

If your civil partnership is shorter than a year you may only apply for a separation order, and do not need to have been living apart. 

An annulment

A civil partnership may be annulled if it is found not to meet certain legal conditions. These include:

  • Both parties being over 16 at the time of the partnership being registered
  • Both parties being free to enter a civil partnership (i.e. not already in a civil partnership or married to someone else).

The application to have the civil partnership annulled should generally be made within 3 years of the partnership being registered. In granting an annulment the court will declare the civil partnership either void (it never existed) or voidable (although it was legal at the time it is no longer so). 

How long does it take to dissolve a civil partnership?

Where both parties agree to a dissolution order, the Court will make a conditional order of dissolution. Like a divorce this will be made final 6 weeks from the date of the conditional order.

Where there is dispute between the parties the process may take longer.

Issues that may delay the process include:

  • Childcare arrangements, including custody, residency and maintenance
  • Financial agreements, both partners having the legal responsibility to support each another financially at the end of a civil partnership, whether or not there are children involved.
  • Housing rights, as both civil partners have the right to live in the family home and neither can force the other to leave, regardless of who owns or rents the home.

Is financial help available for ending a civil partnership?

Certain circumstances within the process may qualify for legal aid, so it is advisable to speak to a solicitor about your specific requirements.

Please be aware that anyone who is not a British Citizen may find their right to stay in the UK affected after they are granted a dissolution order to end their civil partnership.

For more information about ending a civil partnership, or if you wish to challenge a dissolution order made by your partner, speak to a divorce-specialist solicitor today.

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