How do you end a civil partnership? A civil partnership is brought to an end by obtaining a ‘dissolution’ which is similar to a ‘divorce’.
When can I apply to end a civil partnership?
Just like in a divorce, you must have entered into the partnership at least a year before making the application for the dissolution. This is commonly referred to as the ‘one year bar’.
What are the grounds for ending a civil partnership
To start the process, you will need to complete a petition setting out the reasons you consider that the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down.
The facts that can be relied upon to prove that the partnership has broken down are as follows:
Your partner has deserted you for a period for two years;
You and your partner have been separated and have lived apart for two years (it is possible in some circumstances to argue that a couple have lived separately albeit under one roof);
You and your partner have lived apart for five years (unlike with two years separation, your partner will not have to consent to the dissolution proceeding on this basis)
As a matter of good practice, you may also wish to send a copy of the petition to your ex-partner in draft before it is sent to the court.
This is with a view to the content being agreed and to encourage an amicable approach to be adopted from the outset.
What is the process to end a civil partnership?
Once the petition has been agreed and issued by the court, a copy will be sent to the respondent (your ex-partner) together with an acknowledgment of service form.
The respondent then completes the form, to confirm that they have received the dissolution petition and that they will not be defending the petition, before returning it to the court.
It is at this stage that you would be able to make the application for a ‘conditional order’ which is equivalent to the decree nisi which is pronounced in divorce proceedings.
What is the conditional order?
A conditional order is a document which serves as confirmation from the court that you have satisfied the legal requirements to dissolve your civil partnership.
When applying for the conditional order, a statement in support of dissolution must be sent to the court as well. The purpose of that form is to confirm that the content of your petition is still accurate.
Once the application has been made, the court will then send a certificate to you confirming the date upon which the conditional order will be granted at a hearing. This is a public hearing and one which parties do not need to attend.
What is the final order?
After the conditional order has been obtained, you must wait six weeks and one day until you apply for the final stage, which is the ‘final order’.
In divorce proceedings, this would be the ‘decree absolute’. The final order will be the document which dissolves the civil partnership.
Sometimes, it is advisable to hold off from making this application, such as when financial matters are yet to be resolved. You should take advice from your family lawyer about this.
How long does it take to end a civil partnership?
The process for dissolution is largely a paper-based exercise meaning that there is usually no requirement to attend a court hearing.
So long as the proceedings are not contested, the process is straightforward and can take between 4-6 months to conclude.
Defended dissolution proceedings are very costly and as such, are thankfully rare.
How much does it cost?
As the petitioner, you will need to pay the court fee of £550. The costs that you incur in relation to the dissolution can, however, be sought from your ex-partner or an agreement can be reached in relation to a contribution towards the same.
If you instruct a lawyer to help with the dissolution, you will have additional legal costs for their service.
What happens if my partner agrees to end the civil partnership?
If your partner agrees to end the civil partnership, the process will be as above, and it is likely that you will both be able to deal with the process in an amicable and timely fashion.
What happens if my partner does not agree to end the civil partnership?
If you were relying on your partner’s behaviour to obtain the dissolution, then your partner would not need to agree to the divorce proceeding. This is also true if you rely on 5 years of separation or desertion. It is only the 2-year separation rule that requires the consent of the partner.
The only document that the respondent is required to complete and return is the acknowledgment of service form. If they do not cooperate and do this, then alternate methods of service can be looked into, such as having them personally served.
Once service has been effected, the dissolution can progress to the next stage assuming that the partner is not defending the dissolution.
Defended dissolution or divorce proceedings are extremely rare because of the associated costs.
Can I separate from my civil partner without getting a dissolution?
Yes, you can separate without dissolving the partnership. Indeed, some couples choose to separate and then wait for two years so that can be the basis of the petition instead of relying on a fault-based ground (behaviour).
However, as a word of warning, if the finances are dealt with at the point of separation, it is important to have a document known as a separation agreement, drawn up to reflect what assets have been distributed.
This is because the court is not able to make an order (which is a binding and enforceable agreement) until the dissolution proceedings have reached the stage where the conditional order has been made.
It is the conditional order that empowers the court to deal with any financial claims. Whilst a separation agreement is not binding, it would serve as evidence of the agreement reached between the parties and could (by agreement) be transferred into a ‘consent order’ when the parties dissolve the partnership.
What are my financial rights after ending a civil partnership?
It is often the financial matters that are more complicated to resolve. You must take advice in relation to the financial matters when you are dealing with the dissolution of your civil partnership.
Potential claims that arise from the partnership can be from any capital, income and pensions. A solicitor will be able to advise you about your settlement options and negotiate on your behalf.
Each case will be decided on its own circumstances, and that is why it is important to seek professional advice so that the settlement is fair.
In addition, it is also important to deal with the claims at the time of separation as they will otherwise outlive the dissolution. This could result in a claim for assets being made against you by your ex-partner in the future even if you have been separated by formal order.
Even in circumstances where there are no assets to distribute, it is important that the claims are dismissed to prevent any future claims being made if your financial position changes, for example, inheritance.
What happens with arrangements for the children?
Resolving child arrangements is a complex area of family law. The children within the relationship may be foster children, children born from surrogacy (including donor insemination) and/or step-parenting. All of these areas require specialist advice so please consult with a family lawyer.
How can mediation help?
Mediation is often used by separating couples to negotiate with one another with the assistance of an independent and neutral third party; the mediator.
It can offer a more amicable and cost-effective resolution and provides couples with pragmatic guidance and legal information to help them reach their agreements.
You can use the services of a mediator to help you end your civil partnership and to agree on issues including finances, property and children arrangements whilst avoiding potentially lengthy legal negotiations.
Get in touch
If you would like any advice on how to end a civil partnership please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here.