Civil Partnership Dissolution
Unfortunately as with marriage, not every civil partnership works out and some couples will separate. To formalise the separation and dissolve the civil partnership, the process is similar to divorce. Either of you can start the dissolution.
The only ground for a dissolution is that the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably. If you start the dissolution yourself, the only way to show that the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down is to prove one of four facts:
- That your civil partner has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them.
- That your civil partner has deserted you for two years or more.
- That you have been separated for two years and you both agree to the dissolution.
- That you have been separated for five years.
If people do not want to wait for two years, they can only base the dissolution on “behaviour” even if they both agree to the dissolution. “Behaviour” does not need to be violence or other extreme behaviour. A combination of other behaviour can be sufficient. Often issues like working too much (or not working enough), showing too much (or too little) affection, combined with a number of other similar factors are used. Although there is no corresponding fact to “adultery” in divorce, a relationship or sex with another person could form the basis of an application based on behaviour.
Any behaviour you want to rely on has to have happened in the six months before you separated or at any time since you separated.
In addition to the application for dissolution, the “petition”, there are other documents you or your solicitor need to prepare, including a statement about the arrangements of any children. None of these are of great significance for the dissolution itself though. You can only start a civil partnership dissolution in a limited number of courts, namely in the Principal Registry of the Family Division in London and the county courts in Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Chester, Exeter, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle.
The dissolution is a two-stage process. The court will first grant a conditional order, and later make that order final. The court process starts when the court gets the dissolution petition, the civil partnership certificate and other documents and the fee of £410. It will then allocate a number to the case, open a file and send the papers to your civil partner, unless your solicitor asked the court to return the papers to send them to your civil partner or their solicitor direct.
Sending the Papers to the Other Civil Partner
When your civil partner receives the dissolution papers, they have to fill in a form confirming that they have received the papers and whether or not they agree with the dissolution and return it to the court. The court will send a copy to you or your solicitor. If your civil partner does not return the form, it may eventually be necessary to arrange for another set of the documents to be served personally, unless you can prove in some other way that they have received the petition and accompanying documents from the court. This may for example be done by a process server (usually a private detective) giving it to them personally.
Conditional Dissolution Order
If your civil partner agrees to the dissolution going ahead, you can then swear a statement confirming that everything in the dissolution petition is true, whether anything in the meantime has changed and so on. With that statement, you can apply for the conditional order. There is no fee at that stage.
The district judge will then look at your dissolution papers and if the judge agrees that you are entitled to a dissolution, the court will set a date for the formal pronouncement of the conditional order, which may be a week to a month or so after the district judge has approved your dissolution. This is only the first dissolution order and you remain civil partners until the final order.
You can apply for the final order six weeks after the date of the pronouncement of the conditional order. The court should process that application within a week or so, but it can sometimes take a little longer.
In all, the dissolution can take as little as four to six months from start to finish. However, it can take a lot longer if either or both of you delay in taking particular steps during the proceedings, or if there are problems with the court.