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Civil Partnership Divorce

A civil partnership is a legal union of either a same sex couple or a couple of the opposite sex. A civil partnership gives the relationship legal recognition in a similar way to a marriage. However, there are some noticeable differences between a civil partnership and a marriage – and, therefore, differences in how these unions come to an end in relation to divorce – as set out below.

What is a Civil Partnership Divorce?

If the civil partnership breaks down, then the couple need to follow a legal process in order to dissolve the civil partnership. A divorce relates to the legal process to end a marriage and a ‘dissolution’ is the term used with reference to the ending of a civil partnership.

How does a Civil Partnership differ from marriage?

Traditionally, marriage had religious connotations, and still does for many. Part of the marriage process involves the exchanging of vows. By contrast, a civil partnership is a non-religious civil union, and is formed by signing the civil partnership document. When civil partnerships were first introduced in England and Wales in 2005 and they provided legal recognition and protection in relation to the union of same sex couples.

In 2014 a heterosexual couple, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, wanted to form a civil partnership but were unable to, as at the time, they were restricted to same sex couples only. Rebecca and Charles challenged this decision by way of a judicial review at the High Court, and in 2018 they finally received the legal ruling that they had been waiting for. It was declared in a unanimous vote by the 5 Judges at the Supreme Court that the refusal by they Government to allow opposite sex couples to enter into civil partnerships was against Human Rights Law.

Whilst legally marriage and civil partnerships have binding legal consequences, people can view the two different types of union in a very different way.

How to end a Civil Partnership

A dissolution of a civil partnership is very similar to a divorce. You must have been in the civil partnership for a minimum of 1 year before you can apply for a dissolution. If the minimum period of 1 year has passed, then either one of the couple can complete a dissolution application, and send the form – together with the civil partnership certificate – to the nearest Court dealing with civil partnership dissolution with the relevant Court fee.

If there are no objections to ending the civil partnership and all is legally in order, the Court will grant a conditional order, which states that the Court does not see any reason why the civil partnership cannot end. This is the first of two stages to getting the civil partnership dissolved. If one of the couple objects to the ending of the civil partnership, then when the application for a conditional order is made, then the Court will list the matter for a hearing to discuss the case and decide whether to grant the conditional order or not.

6 weeks and 1 day from the date of the conditional order, the original applicant within the proceedings can apply to the Court for a final order, and upon the granting of that order, the civil partnership is dissolved.

If the original applicant does not apply for a final order, then the other party to the partnership can make the application 3 months and 6 weeks after the date of the conditional order.

If no application for a final order is made within 12 months of the conditional order being granted, then an additional application as to be made in order to explain to the Court the reasons for the delay. In reality, the final order can sometimes be delayed whilst the couple sort out and finalise the separation of their financial circumstances.

How long does it take to end a Civil Partnership?

In terms of the dissolution itself, this very much depends on how long the application takes to move through the court and there is no set time frame. At the time of writing, the courts are experiencing delays in processing such applications, however you can apply online, which may be quicker than the traditional paper application route.

The length of time it takes to dissolve a civil partnership will also depend on how long it takes the couple to reach an agreement in relation to financial matters.

How much does the dissolution of a Civil Partnership cost?

At Hawkins Family Law we currently charge between £500 – £600 plus VAT for the work undertaken in relation to a straightforward dissolution of a civil partnership. There will also be the court fee.

Extra work concerning related matters, such as sorting out the financial situation upon the dissolution, is charged separately and is not included in the above figure, as the costs of sorting out the finances can vary greatly from case to case. We can give tailored estimates of costs in relation to the separation of finances to each client.

Grounds for ending a Civil Partnership

At present, it must be shown to the court that the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down and cannot be saved. In highlighting this, you must be able to prove one of the following:

  1. Your partner has behaved unreasonably – this should be behaviour such that you feel that it is impossible to live with your partner any more as a result. Examples of unreasonable behaviour should be given, as well as details of how that behaviour made you feel. Unreasonable behaviour does not have to extreme but can be a number of things that may seem less serious, but which, cumulatively, make you feel that your partner’s behaviour is intolerable overall. It is better to try to agree the unreasonable behaviour with your partner before issuing the application for dissolution, as if you don’t, you may find that your partner objects to what you have stated and the whole process is then slowed down.
  2. Living apart – if you have both lived apart for at least 2 years then you can rely on this fact, provided both partners agree to the dissolution. If only one agrees to the dissolution, then a period of 5 years living apart has to have passed before the application for a dissolution can be made on the basis of living apart. If the court feel that the dissolution of the civil partnership, based on living apart for 5 years, would cause serious financial hardship or other hardship to the partner, then the court may refuse to grant the order.
  3. Desertion – this fact can be relied upon if your partner deserted you at least 2 years ago. Desertion can, however, be difficult to prove.

With the facts of living apart and desertion, the couple can resume living together for up to 6 months in total, but this time will not count towards the period of separation or desertion.

If you would like to speak to one of our family lawyers about either a civil partnership or a divorce, then please contact us today.

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