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Civil Partnership Dissolution in Scotland

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.

A civil partnership is a legally recognised type of relationship introduced by the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which came into force on 5 December 2005. By registering a civil partnership, couples have broadly the same rights as married couples, including in relation to property matters on divorce and succession/inheritance rights.

Civil partnerships have been available to same sex couples since 2005 and since1 June 2021 civil partnerships also became available to mixed sex couples in Scotland.  Couples in Scotland 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

If you meet the eligibility criteria, then yes, you can apply for a Simplified 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.

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 registrar’s office.

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.

Civil partners have the same rights as married couples, including the division of any assets upon dissolution. Civil partners also have the same succession rights as married couples. However, there are some differences in relation to pension rights on death and the manner in which the relationship is formed; a civil partnership is formed by the signing of a legal document while a marriage is formed by the exchange of vows in a ceremony.

The decision to form a civil partnership rather than a marriage will be down to personal preference; civil partnerships may be considered by couples who wish to form an alternative union while retaining the same legal rights as married couples. 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. We can also talk to you about whether marriage or a civil partnership is right for you. 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+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. 

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 £250+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.