How do I end my civil partnership?
The introduction of same sex marriages in 2014 saw the number of civil partnerships formed in England and Wales fall by 70%. However, up to that point more than 60,000 civil partnerships had been formed in England and Wales since they became legal back in 2005.
Civil partnerships proved to be far more popular than initially anticipated. A regulatory impact assessment on the Civil Partnership Act 2004 suggested that by 2010 the estimated likely take-up of civil partnerships in Great Britain would be between 11,000 and 22,000 people.
In reality, at the start of 2010, there were over 79,000 people in civil partnerships in Great Britain.
As with all relationships, civil partnerships go through difficult times and this can result in the breakdown of a relationship. In our article “Thinking of Getting a Divorce? Consider These 5 Key Things First” we looked at some questions to help you decide if your relationship is salvageable.
If you have decided that it has broken down beyond repair, then this article aims to help answer any questions you may have around how to end your civil partnership.
What is a Civil Partnership?
A civil partnership is a legally recognised relationship between two people of the same sex. Civil partnerships in the UK are granted under the Civil Partnership Act 2004, and the first one was formed on 5th December 2005.
Once entered into, a civil partnership allows same-sex couples to obtain essentially the same rights and responsibilities as civil marriage. These include, but are not limited to; property rights, inheritance, pensions, full life insurance recognition, next of kin rights in hospitals, and the ability to get parental responsibility for a partner’s children.
How Do I Prove the Civil Partnership Has Broken Down?
To end (‘dissolve’) your civil partnership you need to have been in the partnership for at least a year. If you have been together for less than a year, then you can apply for a separation order (covered later in this article).
If you have been in the partnership for more than a year you need to prove the partnership has irretrievably broken down and that you have good reasons (known as ‘facts’) for ending it. These include:
- You have lived apart for more than 2 years – you can get a dissolution if you have lived apart for more than 2 years, and both agree to end the civil partnership.
- You have lived apart for more than 5 years – even if your civil partner disagrees.
- Unreasonable behaviour– your civil partner has behaved in such a way that you cannot be expected to live with him or her. This could include; physical or mental cruelty, verbal or physical abuse, being irresponsible with money or being sexually unfaithful.
- Desertion – Your civil partner has left you and lived separately without your agreement and without good reason, for more than 2 years in the past 2.5 years. You can still claim desertion if you have lived together for up to a total of 6 months within this period.
How Do I End a Civil Partnership?
There are 3 main steps to ending a civil partnership:
- File a dissolution petition – apply to court for permission to end your civil partnership including your reasons. You pay a court fee of £550 to file the dissolution petition.
- Apply for a conditional order – if your civil partner agrees to end the civil partnership you’ll get a conditional order saying there’s no reason you can’t divorce. If they don’t agree you can still apply but will have to attend a hearing to discuss the case and a judge will decide whether to grant a conditional order.
- Apply for a final order – this legally ends your civil partnership. You can apply for it 6 weeks after you get the conditional order if you applied or 3 months and 6 weeks if you’re civil partner applied. The delay is to ensure you have enough time to discuss finances and other issues.
Worth noting: you need to apply for the final order within 12 months of receiving the conditional order, otherwise the court will require an explanation for the delay.
Civil Partnerships and Separation Orders
If it has been less than a year since you registered your civil partnership, you can apply to court for a separation order.
Separation orders are granted by the Family Court and, like a dissolution, you have to prove at least one of the following in order to obtain one:
- You have lived apart for more than 2 years (both agree)
- You have lived apart for more than 5 years (without agreement)
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Desertion – Your civil partner deserted you at least two years ago.
Worth noting: you are not free to marry or register another civil partnership unless you get a dissolution order. You can do this at any point after it has been more than a year since you registered your civil partnership. You’ll be able to use the same evidence that you used to get the separation order.