A Guide to Dissolving a Civil Partnership

The ending of a civil partnership can be as difficult and as time consuming as a divorce. Although marriages and civil partnerships are different, the breakdown of these relationships can be both troubling and confusing to navigate. 

At VM Family Law, we have years of experience helping couples and individuals through civil partnership dissolution.

How does a civil partnership end?

Unlike marriages, civil partnerships do not end in a divorce. Instead, they end by what is known as “dissolution”. 

A civil partnership is much like a marriage in that they share the same roles and responsibilities, however, the separation process is slightly different. 

When can I apply to end a civil partnership?

You must have been in the civil partnership for at least 1 year before you can apply to dissolve it. Once the 1 year has passed, then either one party or the couple can jointly complete the dissolution application online. 

You will need to provide a colour copy of your civil partnership certificate and pay all the relevant court fees.

What are civil partnership grounds for dissolution?

To obtain a dissolution, you must confirm that your civil partnership has irretrievably broken down, which basically means that it has broken down and there is no way of things being fixed in the relationship. 

It is no longer a requirement to explain to the courts why the civil partnership has broken down, such as cheating or addictions. However, if there has been some form of abuse or there are other safety concerns, the court will want to hear about these in other proceedings such as child arrangements, but this will not affect the process of the dissolution. 

The civil partnership dissolution process

The dissolution process can be an emotional and time consuming experience, so it’s important not to rush through it. 

Dissolution Application

Once the decision has been made to dissolve a civil partnership, you will need to complete an online dissolution application form which is sent to the courts. This can either be a singular or joint application, and is known as form D8.

What happens after you send a civil partnership dissolution application to the court?

The court will allocate a case number to your application and start the process of dissolution. This is known as issuing the application. The court will notify you when the application has been issued and will inform you about the next steps. 

Once the application has been agreed and issued by the court, a copy will be sent to your ex-partner (the respondent) with an acknowledgement of service form. The respondent will then have 14 days to complete the acknowledgement of service, confirming they have received the dissolution application and they will not be disputing it. 

Conditional Order 

You must then wait 20 weeks before you can apply for a conditional order, which is confirmation that the courts are satisfied with the legal requirements to dissolve your civil partnership. 

Hearing Date 

Once the application has been granted, the court will set a date for a hearing in which the conditional order will be made. You are not required to attend this hearing.

Final Order

After the conditional order has been granted, you can then apply for the final order. This is the final step in the dissolution process, but you must wait 6 weeks and 1 day before applying. 

The final order officially dissolves the civil partnership.

What do you have to prove to get a civil partnership dissolved?

If you wish to obtain a civil partnership dissolution, you only need to prove that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. 

Thanks to the No-Fault law introduced for divorces and dissolutions in April 2022, individuals no longer have to establish specific reasons or grounds as to why the relationship has broken down, such as unreasonable behaviour or adultery. 

What are financial rights after ending a civil partnership?

If your civil partnership ends, you can ask for what is known as a financial remedy order. This covers things like lump sum payments, property adjustment orders, pension sharing orders and maintenance; albeit child maintenance is usually dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service if former couples are not able to agree on an appropriate level of maintenance.

If you are able to agree to a financial settlement, then you should still consult a family lawyer to arrange to have the agreement embodied into a financial order so that it is legally binding.  

This can usually be arranged quickly and cost effectively. However, if you are struggling to agree a settlement yourselves, then you may wish to try mediation or instruct a family lawyer to pursue disclosure and negotiate a financial settlement on your behalf. 

If this is not possible, then court proceedings can be issued and the court can be asked to resolve the financial dispute.

How long does it take to end a civil partnership?

It takes 6 months to end a civil partnership, provided your former partner co-operates with the dissolution. 

However, in some cases, you may be advised to delay your final order until you have a financial settlement order in place, which can extend the timeline.

How much does it cost to end a civil partnership?

If you want a dissolution, the cost of the court fees in England and Wales are £593 but the fee is due to increase. 

You may be able to get assistance with the court fees if you are on benefits or have a low income. You can apply for this online.

FAQs about Dissolving Civil Partnerships

What is the difference between an annulment and dissolution?

Where a dissolution simply ends a civil partnership, an annulment completely voids a marriage or civil partnership, meaning in the eyes of the law, it never happened. 

An annulment can be granted if the civil partnership can be proven to have been defective or never valid in the first place. 

What do you do if your partner does not want to end a civil partnership?

If your partner does not want to end your civil partnership, then they can only contest on very limited grounds; such as the civil partnership was not valid in the first place or the court does not have jurisdiction to deal with the dissolution.

Can you separate from a civil partner without getting a dissolution?

To separate from a civil partner without a dissolution, you will have to go down the route of “legal separation” if you wish to legalise the separation, or alternatively, you can just live separately and deal with the financial arrangements at a later date, i.e when you come to end the civil partnership.

A Judicial Separation (legal separation) allows you and you and your partner to make formal decisions about things like your finances and living arrangements, but you will still be in a civil partnership. 

You might get a Judicial Separation if:

  • You don’t want a dissolution for cultural or religious reasons 
  • You’ve been in a civil partnership for less than one year

If you are thinking of starting the dissolution process for a civil partnership, we strongly advise getting in contact with our professional family law solicitors at VM Family Law.
Contact our team today for expert and tailored advice to your specific situation.

Our goal is to help our clients solve their family legal matters as smoothly as possible.

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