Dissolution of Civil Partnerships

Associate Leesa Longden-Thurgood, Resolution Accredited Specialist on Advanced Financial Provision, advises on the dissolution of civil partnerships.

The procedure in undefended dissolution cases is quite straightforward. For the dissolution itself it is rare for either party to appear in court and in most cases everything is dealt with by written application.

When can I dissolve my Civil Partnership?

In order to dissolve your civil partnership you must have been in the partnership for more than 12 months. You will also need to show that the partnership is irretrievably broken down by proving one of four facts, namely:

  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion for two years
  • Two years separation with consent from the other party
  • Five years separation

The Process

Presuming that one of these facts exist, dissolution proceedings are started by a petition being prepared and filed at court in Brighton. This will be served upon the other party by the court, through the post. The other party then has 14 days to return to the court a form called an ‘Acknowledgment of Service’. When the Acknowledgment of Service has been returned to the court, the petitioning party then files a statement which confirms the truth of the contents of the petition confirming that the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the other party and is accompanied by a request that the court consider all of the circumstances. If it is satisfied with the papers the court sets a date for the pronouncement of a conditional order. Both parties receive notification of the date from the court. Once 6 weeks and 1 day have passed from the date of the conditional order, the petitioning party may apply to the court for the final dissolution order by completing a simple form and paying the appropriate fee. Sometimes it is sensible to delay applying immediately for the final order, for example where financial issues have not been resolved. If one of the parties to the dissolution applies for the final order before finances are sorted out and the other party dies there may be a loss of financial benefit.

If the petitioning party does not apply for the final dissolution order then 4½ months after the conditional order the other party may apply to the court for an order for dissolution of the civil partnership.

Some things to consider

This process can be quite straightforward provided you are organised . To assist you, please review the following;

  • If you live on the same property, make sure you live separate and apart. The judge will need to be satisfied you are living separate lives – which includes separate meals and sleeping arrangements.
  • Obtain the original civil partnership certificate. The certificate will need to be filed with the court upon issuing your petition. Take a copy in case the judge raises any queries regarding the wording of the particulars of marriage upon your petition. Please note that once issued, amendments to dissolution petitions are expensive.
  • If possible, discuss the dissolution proceedings with your partner and agree who will issue a petition. Reaching an agreement regarding the particulars and who pays for the proceedings can avoid unnecessary costs of defended or cross petitions.
  • Locate your partner. This may sound silly, but knowing your partner’s whereabouts is very important. You are required to provide your partner’s address in the petition and your partner must be served with the paperwork. Difficulties with service can increase costs considerably. If you consider that your partner may ignore the petition, provide your representative with a photograph and details of his/her likely whereabouts. You may need to have your partner personally served; this could increase your costs by as much as £500.

Dissolution may not be suitable for everyone

You may prefer to legalise your separation without actually dissolving your Civil Partnership. You may have been civil partners for less than a year and seek to resolve your financial claims or you are concerned that you will lose pension benefits in the event of your civil partner’s death.

Some couples prefer to reach an agreement about financial matters arising out of their separation without any court proceedings at all. This can be achieved by a signed written legal document, incorporating the agreement they have reached. Commonly, such agreements deal with confirmation that the parties to the civil partnership are to live apart and the manner in which maintenance and/or property are to be dealt. While there are no restrictions on what can or cannot be included in such an agreement, it is important to bear in mind that should either person make a subsequent financial application to the court, the court is not bound by the financial arrangements contained in the separation agreement.

How much will a dissolution cost?

The court’s fee to issue a dissolution of civil partnership petition is currently £550. Some people may not wish to issue their own proceedings and will instruct a firm of solicitors for assistance. Legal costs often vary between £1,000 and £2,000 for the dissolution. This does not include the costs of resolving your financial claims. Many firms will require funds on account of costs of a sum between £500 and £2, 000.

The final order

The pronouncement of the final order means your civil partnership is dissolved but all is not over from your partnership – you must resolve your financial claims.

If you require any legal advice on civil partnerships please contact Leesa on 02392 820747.

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