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Dissolution of Civil Partnerships

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Civil Partnerships

In 2004 The Civil Partnership Act gave same-sex couples the right to enter into a Civil Partnership. Following this The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 granted those registered in a Civil Partnership the ability to convert their partnership into a marriage.

If there is a breakdown of a same sex relationship, it is necessary to deal with both the dissolution of the Civil Partnership and the surrounding financial issues.

Grounds for Dissolution of a Civil Partnership

In order to dissolve your Civil Partnership it will be necessary for you to apply to the Court for a Dissolution Order. The partner applying for the Dissolution Order needs to satisfy the Court that their Civil Partnership has permanently broken down on the basis of one of the following grounds:-

  • Unreasonable behaviour of one party
  • 2 years separation and you both consent to the Divorce
  • 5 years separation (consent of your partner is not required)
  • Desertion

Dissolution proceedings cannot be issued within the first year of registration of the civil partnership.

The General Procedure

We usually try to agree the wording of the Dissolution Petition before issuing it and in the case of unreasonable behaviour, keep the particulars fairly mild. This tends to reduce any hostility. Unfortunately, in this country it is not possible to dissolve a civil partnership on the basis of “conflicting differences”. If you or your partner does not wish to wait for the requisite period of separation before issuing a Petition, it would have to be based on unreasonable behaviour.

Once the Dissolution Petition has been issued by the Court, the next steps are as follows:-

  • the other partner (the Respondent) files a document (an Acknowledgment of Service) to confirm whether or not they intend to defend the divorce proceedings;
  • if the divorce proceedings are undefended and everything is in order, the Petition applies for a Conditional Order of Dissolution. This is the first decree in the process certifying that the parties are entitled to dissolution.
  • After the Court has pronounced the Conditional Order, the Petitioner must wait a further 6 weeks and 1 day before applying for the Final Order. This is not an automatic process; the Petitioner must apply for it. This is the final decree and will complete the dissolution.

A straight forward dissolution roughly takes (from issuing the Petition to the Final Order) around 3 – 6 months. However, it may be sensible to postpone applying for the Final Order until a financial settlement has been reached. This is particularly important if there is a significant pension and the Petitioner would lose valuable pension benefits if the Respondent died unexpectedly between the Final Order and a pension sharing Order being made. In a situation such as this, the Petitioner would reach the point of the Conditional Order and then defer applying for the Final Order until the finances have been settled and a Court Order has been made approving the terms.

If the one seeking a pension sharing Order is the Respondent in the dissolution (and therefore is not in control of timing), the Petitioner will be asked to give a formal assurance not to apply for the Final Order until the finances have been resolved.

Children

There are an increasing number of same sex parents which often leads to the need to formalise arrangements for the children on separation. Please refer to our Child Law section of the website for further information.

Special Cases

Every case is different, particularly as family lives are often very complex. It may therefore be that you need to issue dissolution proceedings without warning or as a matter of urgency. For example, your case may have an international element and therefore the proceedings need to be issued in England before your partner issues in another Country to attempt to achieve a more favourable outcome. Alternatively, you may be at risk of domestic violence, whatever the circumstances, our highly skilled and experienced lawyers will be able to help.

For more Information call the Family Law Team at Harwood Solicitors on freephone 0800 205 5556.

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