What is a civil partnership?

A civil partnership is a legally recognised relationship between two people. Civil partnerships were introduced in 2004, under the Civil Partnership Act. This applies to same-sex couples over the age of 16.

What is the difference between civil partnership and marriage?

A civil partnership is currently only available to same-sex couples. Marriage can be entered into by heterosexual or same-sex couples.

A civil partnership ceremony requires the signing of a civil partnership document and there is no requirement for a ceremony or vows. However, marriage is formed by the exchange of vows at a religious or civil ceremony.

A civil partnership is ended by a Dissolution Order whereas a marriage is ended by a Decree Absolute.

In October 2018, the government agreed to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples. The new legislation is not yet in force.  

How to dissolve a civil partnership?

The process of ending a civil partnership is known as dissolution. This is similar to a divorce. However, there are some differences in the process. Firstly, the grounds for civil partnership dissolutions differ slightly when compared to divorce. Adultery is not recognised in civil partnership dissolution and therefore cannot be a reason for ending the partnership.

Secondly, where a married couple may be able to separate informally for a number of years without getting a divorce, those who are in a civil partnership must inform the courts formally of separation.

What are the grounds for Civil Partnership Dissolution?

There is only one ground for the dissolution of a Civil Partnership; that is that the partnership has irretrievably broken down. This can be demonstrated through a limited number of facts. The court will not find that the partnership has irretrievably broken down unless the Applicant satisfies one of the following:

  • Unreasonable Behaviour That the Respondent has behaved in such a way that the Applicant cannot reasonably be expected to live with the Respondent
  • Desertion That the Respondent has deserted the Applicant for at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition;
  • 2 Years Separation with Consent That the parties to the partnership have lived separate and apart from each other for a continuous period of two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition and the Respondent consents to the decree being granted; or
  • 5 Years Separation The parties to the partnership have lived separate and apart from each other for a continuous period of five years immediately preceding presentation of the petition.

How long does it take to get a civil partnership dissolved?

The dissolution process can take four to six months and usually there is no need for either party to attend court unless costs or financial matters are in dispute.

However, the process can be prolonged if the Respondent fails to acknowledge the dissolution papers, or if there are unresolved financial issues.

Civil partnership separation agreement

If you would like an alternative to civil partnership dissolution, our family law solicitors can also help with separation agreements. In certain situations, couples are not ready to dissolve the partnership or they may have reasons for not wishing to terminate their civil partnership. In these instances, a separation agreement can be used to record and formalise the terms of their separation.

How We Can Help

Our experienced civil partnership solicitors can support you and make sure you are fully informed throughout the process. If necessary, we can also advise on financial protection matters such as inheritance & estate planning; drafting pre-nuptial agreements and civil partnership agreements. 

Our solicitors regularly provide assistance to the LGBTQ community on all issues relating to divorce and civil partnership dissolution.

Examples of work undertaken by our family solicitors include:

  • Acting for a husband in a same-sex marriage in relation to contested remedy proceedings. The matter involved an urgent application for an injunction in light of the husband's steps to place assets out of reach;
  • Drafting civil partnership agreements;
  • Drafting pre-nuptial agreements;
  • Advising same-sex partners in relation to surrogacy and obtaining parental orders;
  • Acting for same-sex grandparents in seeking a child arrangement order to enable their grandchildren to live with them.

We understand that ending a partnership or marriage can be extremely difficult both emotionally and financially. We aim to provide a friendly and experienced approach, to ensure that the matter is resolved in the most efficient way.

Meet Our Specialists

Home-grown or recruited from national, regional or City firms. Our specialists are experts in their fields and respected by their peers.

Jane Tenquist

Jane Tenquist

Jane is a Partner and Head of the Family Law Team

Nichola Bright

Nichola Bright

Nichola is a Senior Solicitor in our Family Law department

Sarah Whitelegge

Sarah Whitelegge

Sarah is a Senior Solicitor in our Family Law department

Gabrielle Dugan

Gabrielle Dugan

Gabrielle is an Assistant Solicitor within the Family Department

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