Civil Partnership Dissolution
Civil partnerships were created by the Civil Partnership Act 2004, and remained the only option for same-sex couples until same-sex marriage was legalised in March 2014. The Supreme Court then ruled that allowing civil partnerships to same-sex couples, but not to opposite sex couples, is not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. As a result the UK government made civil partnership available to opposite sex couples as well .
The process for dissolving a civil partnership is very similar to the process for obtaining a divorce, with some very minor modifications, and changes of vocabulary so the information on the rest of this website is equally applicable.
The law concerning any financial issues between separating civil partners is also similar to that applied to a divorcing couple. So the courts seek to achieve a “fair settlement” between the parties, and with the same scope for maintenance orders, orders transferring assets between the parties and pension sharing. The information on this website about resolving the financial issues which arise on divorce applies equally on dissolution of a civil partnership.
How to dissolve a civil partnership
The decision to dissolve your civil partnership, is a major life choice, and it is not one you will take without thinking very carefully. But, once you have made that choice, you will find that the legal process is relatively simple, it does not question your choice, or ask you to justify it.
The law does not try to establish the real reasons for the breakdown of your partnership, or to apportion responsibility for it.
Like getting divorced, dissolving a civil partnership, is a legal process which involves a court. But you do not need actually to go to court, it is done through online or by post. Ordinarily it takes about seven to nine months from the start of the process, to reach the point where the system is ready to send you your final dissolution order, which is the document confirming that you are no longer civil partners.
An overview of the process of dissolving a civil partnership.
In April 2022 the law and the procedure you need to follow to dissolve your partnership were simplified a great deal. The courts no longer make any attempt whatever to establish the reasons for the breakdown of your partnership, or to apportion responsibility for it, you simply say that in your honest opinion your partnership has irretrievably broken and you make your application online using the gov.uk website. There are various waiting times, doubtless intended to make sure that you are certain of your decision.
If you and your civil partner both feel your partnership has broken down you have the choice to make a joint application for a dissolution. Otherwise, one of you can apply and the other is not given the option of refusing to dissolve the partnership even if that is what they would prefer.
The process itself is largely a matter of form filling either online or paper but the online version seems easier. You do not need your partner’s permission, but their cooperation is always helpful.
How to start dissolution proceedings
Getting divorced, or dissolving a civil partnership, is a legal process which involves a court. In the end a judge somewhere in the country will certify the dissolution of your civil partnership and issue your dissolution orders. But you do not need actually to go to court, it is done through online at the gov.uk website. Ordinarily it takes about seven to nine months from the start of that process, to reach the point where the court office is ready to send you your ‘final order’ (equivalent to what was previously known as a decree absolute in divorce) which is the document confirming that you are no longer civil partners, usually sent out as a PDF file rather than as a paper document.
I suggest you go directly to the to gov.uk website, and search for ‘dissolve my civil partnership’ using the search engine in the top right hand corner or try this link. Gov.uk
Don’t just Google ‘I want to dissolve my civil partnership’ because that will bring up lots of the other websites which offer to help you for a fee. You don’t need that, the government website takes you through the process step by step with clear and helpful guidance – it is practically impossible to get it wrong.
Basically you fill in a form online with straight forward details such as the date of your partnership and your partner’s address. You also have to upload a good quality scan of your partnership certificate and pay the court fee. The days when you had to say your partner had behaved unreasonably, or you had lived apart for two years, have gone. The only trap for the unwary is that it is sensible to tick the boxes which say you would like to apply to the court for financial orders, whether you actually intend to or not. But if you get that wrong you an rectify the mistake later.
The system then generates a letter which gets posted to your partner inviting them to log on and read the forms, then you can go ahead. It tells you what to do in some slightly unusual circumstances such as if you don’t know where your partner is, or if they don’t respond to the letter. Then you have to wait for 6 months before your ‘conditional order’ and then another 6 weeks to apply for your final order, but it is sensible to delay applying for that until financial orders have been properly dealt with.
Before April 2022 we used to charge people around £500+VAT to process a civil partnership application which I think was money well spent because it was quite tricky. Now I advise most people do it themselves and contact me to talk about the financial issues, but it is a matter of your own free choice, I am happy to apply for your dissolution for you if you would like me to.
Once you have your final dissolution order you are each free to enter another civil partnership or marry. If you were the respondent, you can seriously damage your financial position by doing this, so you should seek proper advice from a solicitor first.
It may be wise to postpone your application for final order, particularly if financial issues between you and your civil partner have not been properly resolved by that stage. You should take advice about this. For more information please visit my finances and divorce page.