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Dissolution and Divorce – What’s the Difference?

Divorce is often used as an all-encompassing term to cover the breakdown of a legally recognised relationship.

However, since the legalisation of Civil Partnerships in the UK in 2005, civil partners have, like their married counterparts, needed a route of legal separation. This is what is known as dissolution.

The key difference when looking at ending a relationship both within civil partnerships and marriages is that those ending a civil partnership will follow the route of dissolution. Those looking to end a marriage will follow the process of divorce, whether the couple is heterosexual or same sex.

Harriet Donovan, an Associate here at Stowe Family Law, explores the differences in more depth.

Is Civil Partnership Dissolution the same as divorce?

Dissolution and divorce follow a very similar process within the court system. As with divorce you must be in the civil partnership for at least a year to apply for dissolution and now you can make a sole or joint application when bringing your marriage to an end.

Like those within a marriage when you end a civil partnership you will receive a document called the ‘final order’ which is a legal document that brings an end to your civil partnership.

It is important to note that you must ensure that you have finalised your financial arrangements prior to you applying for your final order. If this is not done your financial claims within your civil partnership or marriage remain open meaning that your ex-partner may be able to make a claim over your assets in the future. It is recommended that you seek legal advice on this matter prior to the conclusion of the dissolution or divorce process.

Grounds for Civil Partnership Dissolution and Divorce

Before 6 April 2022 specific facts were required to dissolve a civil partnership and a marriage. This involved one party providing ‘grounds’ for the breakdown of the relationship choosing from 5 categories. This included reasons as to why the other party had been unreasonable and why they could no longer be expected to remain in a relationship with that person.

However, in April 2022 no-fault divorce was introduced which meant that parties could apply to the court for a dissolution or divorce without needing to give reasons for their decision. This also allowed the parties to make sole or joint applications to the Court to end their relationship.

How quickly can you dissolve a civil partnership?

When it comes to legally ending a civil partnership and a marriage there are two options available: annulment and dissolution/divorce.

To commence divorce and dissolution proceedings the parties will have to wait a minimum of a year before submitting such application to the Court.

An annulment is very different. Technically an annulment would declare both civil partnerships or a marriage as void if it didn’t meet the right criteria and conditions. Sufficient evidence must be provided on such conditions as: fraud, underage, lack of consent or one party already being married or within a civil partnership.

The actual length of time a dissolution takes depends on a variety of factors. These include how long it takes you and your ex-partner to agree on financial matters or child arrangements. There are specific stages in the process that must be followed and can be found here.

It is crucial that you seek legal advice on this matter to ensure you are taking the right steps for you.

Financial Considerations

When you are going through divorce proceedings it is important to seek legal advice to understand your position in respect of your financial matters.

Financial orders outline how both parties will divide their sole and joint assets upon the party’s reaching dissolution or divorce. This will include looking at the party’s properties, pensions, savings, investments, liabilities and maintenance.

With respect to finances, the same applies whether you are divorcing or undergoing civil partnership dissolution. As part of this process, you can apply to the court for a lump sum provision (also known as a clean break), property transfer, ongoing maintenance and pension sharing orders.

It must be remembered that the act of dissolving your civil partnership or getting a divorce does not, in itself, end your financial ties with your ex-partner, so a financial settlement must be agreed upon and court ordered in order to prevent any future claims on finances.

Child Arrangements in Civil Partnership Dissolution

As with divorce, any children from the relationship will need to be considered. A plan will need putting in place moving forward.

These are dealt with separately to the official ending of the civil partnership. It is ideal if you and your ex-partner can agree on a parenting plan between yourselves. However, mediation can be utilised or, if necessary, the court can step in to decide. The court may give a child arrangements order. This sets out who has responsibility for the care of the child/children.

Useful Links

Support with child arrangements

Financial disclosure in divorce

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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