Ending a civil partnership
A civil partnership gives same-sex couples the right to obtain legal recognition of their relationship. The civil partnership can be ended only by dissolution, annulment or death and is a court-based procedure.
Reasons for a dissolution
The court will only grant you a dissolution if a judge agrees that your civil partnership is at an end. The legal term for this is 'irretrievably broken down'.
You must satisfy the court that one or more of the following is true as proof that your civil partnership is over:
- unreasonable behaviour by your civil partner
- desertion for a period of at least two years
- two years' separation, if you both agree to the dissolution
- five years' separation, if there is no agreement to the dissolution
If you feel that the civil partnership has'irretrievably broken down' then a petition will need to be completed.
Getting a petition
You cannot start dissolution proceedings unless you have been in a civil partnership for one year. You'll have to explain why you want a dissolution in the petition form.
The main stages of dissolution
Once you return your petition to the civil partnership proceedings county court you have started the dissolution process. You will be 'the petitioner' and your civil partner is 'the respondent'.
Copies of your civil partnership certificate, details of any children involved and also the name and address of any other person named in the dissolution proceedings may be required from you.
The courts will post a copy of the petition to your civil partner. This is known as 'serving the petition'. Your civil partner has eight days to acknowledge receipt of the petition. If they don't do this, the court will contact you and ask for more details and, if necessary, arrange for a court official - know as a bailiff - to serve the petition in person.
After a petition is served
Once the petition has been served, what happens next depends upon whether or not your civil partner agrees to the dissolution or not. You may be asked to provide more information by the court. If you have children then the court must look at and agree with the arrangements made for the children (eg who they are going to live with, where they are going to live, what contact they will have with the non-resident parent) before the dissolution is granted.
An important part of the dissolution process is known as 'the Conditional Order. This is the first stage of the actual dissolution. It is granted only when a judge has reviewed all of the papers and is satisfied that there are proper grounds for a dissolution. You may be required to attend court, but many dissolutions happen entirely by post.
The final stage of a dissolution is called 'the Final Order'. You can apply for the Final Order six weeks and one day after the Conditional Order. If you don't apply for the Final Order then your civil partner, as the respondent, can apply for it but only after a further three months have passed.
When you receive the Final Order, you are no longer in a civil partnership and are free to enter into another civil partnership.
Getting help with the process
If your civil partnership is ending, youwill probablyneed some help with the legaldetails.Solicitors, professional mediators and eventhe Citizen's Advice Bureau can all make the process easier for you.
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