Dissolution of Civil Partnership

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Same sex separation

On 5 December 2005 a revolutionary law came into operation; the Civil Partnerships Act 2004. The Act made it possible, for the first time in the UK, for a relationship between two people of the same sex to be recognised legally, by registration of a civil partnership.

The Act is modelled on a civil marriage (although the term "marriage" is not actually used) and this means there are certain rules relating to the formalities of who can enter into a partnership and how the partnership is registered.

The procedure for entering into a civil partnership is relatively straightforward but certain rights and responsibilities are attached. Most of these are the same or similar to those of a civil marriage, although there are some significant exceptions.

This means that couples in a civil partnership will in most cases be treated in the same way as married couples in relation to issues such as benefit claims, taxation, pension issues, intestacy and inheritance and immigration.

Most of the wording in the Act was taken from existing legislation relating to marriage and it's because of this that similar legal consequences exist across both.

How we can help

Couples considering a civil partnership should think about making Wills (any existing Wills will be void by the registration of a civil partnership), take advice with regard to tax planning, and also consider a pre-partnership agreement in the same way as a couple entering into marriage could make a pre-nuptial agreement.

Although the law doesn't recognise such agreements when dissolving a marriage or civil partnership, they can provide helpful evidence of the intention of both parties when it comes to looking at the ownership of assets, particularly in a short relationship.

We can help you with the above and if the relationship breaks down, advise you on grounds for dissolution of a civil partnership, and also represent you at all stages of the process. On the issue of financial claims, we can represent you in court if the division of assets from the relationship cannot be dealt with by agreement following negotiation.

If there are children involved, we can also assist you in ensuring that arrangements are resolved with as little animosity and dispute as possible to protect their best interests.

Questions & Answers

Q - How is a civil partnership brought to an end?

A - The dissolution of a civil partnership is closely linked to divorce under the matrimonial legislation. The ground for dissolution is that the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. As with marriage, this has to be shown by one of a number of facts:

  • One party's behaviour being such that it's not reasonable to expect the other party to continue to live with them
  • Two years separation and with the other person's consent
  • Five years separation
  • Desertion for two years

Unlike divorce proceedings, there is no ground for dissolution on the basis of adultery. However, sexual behaviour with a third party could form the basis of a behaviour petition.

Q - What powers does the court have to deal with any disputes about property after a civil partnership breaks down?

A - The court has powers to make a number of financial orders, in parallel with their powers on divorce. In the case of the breakdown of a civil partnership, one partner may be required to maintain the other, or to transfer assets such as property, pensions or capital to the other partner.

Q - What about any children?

A - The Children Act 1989 is largely neutral in that marriage is not a requirement for parental rights and most orders can be made in favour of people who are not biological parents. Joint residence orders have for a number of years been a device to allow parents in a same sex family to share parental responsibility for a child of one of the parents.

However, the Act amends the existing Children Act 1989 and other statutes in such a way as to put civil partners in the same position as step-parents. This means that civil partners now have the option to sign parental responsibility agreements which would not previously have been available to same sex partners.

In the event of a dispute about where a child should live and what contact there should be with other family members, the court has similar powers to when a marriage breaks down, although there may be technical differences in the procedures which we can advise you about.

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