Civil Partnership Dissolution

If you are in a civil partnership and decide you want to legally end the partnership then you need to apply for a civil partnership dissolution, rather than a civil partnership divorce, as a divorce only applies to a marriage.

Frequently asked questions

The following are some of our most frequently asked questions when it comes to civil partnership dissolution.

What is a civil partnership?

A civil partnership is a legally recognised type of relationship introduced by the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which came into force in December 2005. By registering a civil partnership, same sex couples have broadly the same rights as married couples, including in relation to property matters on divorce and succession/inheritance rights.

Civil partnerships are currently only available to same sex couples. However, the Government is currently consulting on whether this should be a legitimate choice for heterosexual couples too.

With Scotland legalising same sex marriage in 2014, same sex couples now have a choice of three legally recognised relationships: cohabitation, civil partnership or marriage. It is also possible for existing civil partners to convert their civil partnership into marriage.

How do I get a civil partnership dissolution?

A dissolution is the ending of the legal contract of civil partnership and you can only achieve this by applying to the court, usually the Sheriff Court, to grant dissolution.

If you and your civil partner can agree on any issues from the separation before applying for dissolution, the application for dissolution is then undefended. This means that neither party has to go to court to give evidence for the dissolution, and makes the whole process much more straightforward.

If, however, you cannot agree, you may have to raise a court action for the court to resolve the issues as part of the dissolution proceedings. This can be a costly process.

What is the dissolution application procedure?

Just like with a divorce in Scotland, there are two ways to apply for a dissolution:

  • Simplified procedure – this is also referred to as a ‘DIY dissolution’, and may apply to you if there are no financial matters to resolve, or these have already been decided and drawn up in a formal Separation Agreement, and there are no children under 16 of the Partnership.
  • Ordinary procedure – in all other cases.

In order to apply for a dissolution, you first need to establish grounds for dissolution.

What are the grounds for dissolution?

There are only two grounds you can use for dissolution. The most common is if you can establish that the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably. There are three different ways you can show this irretrievable breakdown:

  1. You have been separated from your partner for one year and your partner is prepared to consent to the dissolution.
  2. You have been separated from your partner for two years. You can then go ahead with a dissolution without your partner’s consent.
  3. You can establish that your partner’s behaviour is such that you cannot reasonably be expected to continue to live with them – this is often referred to as ‘unreasonable behaviour’. You can then apply for a dissolution immediately. You would have to provide evidence from someone else to confirm the position. Unreasonable behaviour does not necessarily mean just physical abuse. It can also cover issues such as alcohol or drug abuse or gambling, as well as emotional abuse.

While adultery is a ground for a divorce, this is not currently a ground for dissolution, due to its definition. However, a civil partner who has discovered that their partner has been unfaithful could consider applying for dissolution on the ground of their partner’s behaviour instead.

The other ground for applying for dissolution is where an interim gender recognition certificate has been issued to one of the parties.

Our team can advise you whether you have grounds to apply for a dissolution.

How long will a civil partnership dissolution take?

This will largely depend upon the circumstances of your case and in particular, whether your ex-partner defends it. If it is not defended, and assuming there are no other difficulties (for example locating your ex or serving them with the papers) then normally the process takes around six to eight weeks.

What am I entitled to under a dissolution?

Civil partners are entitled to the very much the same on dissolution as a heterosexual married couple on divorce. Find out more about the division of assets on separation.

Can we do the dissolution ourselves?

If you meet the eligibility criteria, then yes, you can apply for a Simplified/DIY dissolution, which does not require a Solicitor, unless you would prefer to instruct one. The criteria and process is virtually identical to the Simplified procedure.

However, if you do not meet the criteria, you can still apply for a dissolution using the ordinary procedure.

Can I convert from a civil partnership to marriage?

Yes. There are two options available. Couples in a civil partnership can convert that to marriage through a full marriage ceremony or, alternatively, by following an administrative process, which is arranged by making an appointment with their local registry office.

For conversions in the first year since the legislation was introduced in December 2014, there is no charge for converting through the administrative route. However, there are still associated charges for those converting through the full ceremony route.

Couples looking to convert should be aware that from a legal perspective, the conversion is retrospective. This means that the date of marriage will be treated as the date the original civil partnership was registered. This could have significant consequences during any future divorce, as when calculating the matrimonial property, property acquired from the earlier date onwards will be taken into account. As such, it would not take into account any period where the couple may have separated (but not dissolved the civil partnership). That could have implications if one party had then acquired assets or indeed debt during that period of separation, as those assets/debts would then be taken into account during any subsequent divorce where the parties had later reconciled then converted to marriage. Those looking to ‘ring fence’ such property might want to consider a prenuptial agreement before the partnership’s conversion to marriage.

What is the difference between same sex marriage and civil partnership?

Essentially, the only difference is that same sex marriage is now recognised legally. Civil partners already had the same rights as heterosexual married couples, including the division of any assets upon dissolution. Civil partners also had the same succession rights as married couples. That has not changed with the introduction of same sex marriage. Although they are two different types of relationship which are recognised by law, the rights under both are the same.

How can Thorntons help?

You should talk to a Solicitor about your civil partnership dissolution options, especially if there are financial matters or care arrangement for any children of your partnership to resolve. Our Family Law team can advise you on the dissolution process and what is best for your situation. For example, alternative dispute resolution is a way separating couples can reach an amicable agreement on separation issues and avoid the costs of going to court.

Call us on 03330 430 150 for a chat or contact us to book an appointment.

If you are unsure about your situation, and want to know where you stand before deciding what to do, we offer an Advice Package with a fixed price of £250 inclusive of VAT so you can talk to one of our Solicitors in more depth about your options. After the meeting, you may decide not to take things any further. If you do decide to move forward the £250 fee is offset from your overall bill.

How much will it cost?

The costs of a civil partnership dissolution can vary, depending on the circumstances of your case. We are always clear to clients about the potential costs of any option and offer a range of payment options.  In some cases we can offer clients a fixed price package.  For example, where there are no financial claims and no children under 16 years of age and matters are agreed, you may be eligible for a simplified dissolution, in which case we offer a fixed fee of £300 inclusive of VAT and excluding outlays. 

If we cannot offer a fixed price service, we charge based on the time we spend on your case, including meetings, emails, phone calls and court representations.  Depending on your case and circumstances, you may also need to cover outlays, such as court costs or payments to independent experts. We will set out our fees and likely extra costs for you at the start and keep you informed of any possible changes as your case progresses. Please note we do not offer Legal Aid for this service.

Alternative funding

The costs for dissolution can be significant, especially if negotiation becomes drawn out or the matter ends up in court. If you are concerned about covering such costs, we can put you in touch with a specialist company who may provide funding for clients to assist with the costs of family law cases. You will then pay them back when you receive a financial award under the divorce. To discuss eligibility call us on 03330 430 150 or contact us online.

Frequently asked questions

We often receive questions separation agreements and how to put one in place. We have answered some commonly asked questions below

Read frequently asked questions

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Key Contacts

Sandra

Sandra Sutherland
Partner

+44 1241 872683
ssutherland@thorntons-law.co.uk

Robin

Robin Beattie
Associate

+44 1241 872683
rbeattie@thorntons-law.co.uk

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