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Dissolving a Civil Partnership What Does This Mean
Dissolving a Civil Partnership: What Does This Mean?
Many of us are familiar with the language used around divorces and the process of ending a marriage. Family Law specialist, Curtis Wray explains what is involved in dissolving a civil partnership.

As of 31 Dec 2019 both same sex and heterosexual couples can enter into civil partnerships. Ending a civil partnership can be a stressful and emotional experience for both parties, and it is important to have a clear understanding of the process.
To dissolve a civil partnership, a Dissolution Order must be acquired from your local regional divorce court- but what is a Dissolution Order, and how do you apply for one?
In this article, we will cover what you need to know about ending a civil partnership, explain some of the associated terminology and identify key points in the process.

What does it mean to dissolve a civil partnership?

In order to end a civil partnership, it is necessary to apply to court for a Dissolution Order.
A Dissolution Order is a legal document that terminates a civil partnership. It “dissolves” the civil partnership, on the grounds that it has broken down 'irretrievably' (as per the Civil Partnership Act 2004).
In order to demonstrate to the court that there has been an irretrievable breakdown, you can rely upon one of a number of different facts. Accordingly, a civil partnership can only be brought to an end if one of the following ‘facts’ can be proven:
  • That you and your partner have been separated for two years and your partner is agreeable to the dissolution going ahead.
  • That you and your partner have been separated for five years (in which case their agreement to the dissolution is not required).
  • That you partner deserted you two or more years ago.
  • That your partner has behaved unreasonably.
With respect to unreasonable behaviour you have to demonstrate that your partner’s behaviour was such that the court could not reasonable expect you to continue living with them.
This could include matters such as being involved in criminal activity or perpetrating domestic abuse - or more usually a whole host of other more commonplace signs of an unhappy relationship, such as the partner not being supportive or making you feel lonely.
However, unlike the divorce of a married couple, adultery cannot be used as a fact for applying for dissolution by same sex couples in and of itself (although infidelity may be considered a good reason under the umbrella of unreasonable behaviour).
Another consideration is that the civil partnership must have existed for at least one year before it is potentially eligible to be dissolved.

What is the process of applying for dissolution?

Once the decision has been made to dissolve the partnership, an application to the court should be made.
This is done in the form of a 'Petition'. The Petition will give the reasons why it is felt the partnership has irretrievably broken down. By working with an expert family law solicitor, the applicant can ensure that their application has been made correctly.
If possible, the applicant may find it helpful to seek the consent of their partner before starting the dissolution process. If an agreement can be reached, this can often result in a more straightforward and amicable dissolution.
After the Petition has been filed, the court will send the Dissolution Petition to the other civil partner, called the respondent. The respondent has then to respond filling in an acknowledgement of service form which is returned to the court.
If the dissolution is not defended this then enables the applicant to apply for a conditional order.

The Conditional Dissolution Order and Final Dissolution Order

The Conditional Dissolution Order is the first of two documents that must be issued before the partnership can be considered 'officially dissolved’.
The applicant has to apply for a Conditional Dissolution Order and does so by lodging an application with a supporting statement confirming the contents of the dissolution petition.
Until the second document (the Final Dissolution Order) has been granted the partners are still legally in a civil partnership.
In order to obtain the Final Dissolution Order, the applicant will need to wait six weeks and one day from the date of the Conditional Dissolution Order and then submit another application to the court. This should be done within 12 months of receiving the Conditional Dissolution Order, or the court will expect an explanation for the delay.
Upon receiving the request for the Final Dissolution Order, the court will check that there are no reasons not to end the civil partnership. If satisfied with all the information supplied, it will send out the Final Dissolution Order and the civil partnership will be officially ended.
The Final Dissolution Order is an important document and the separated individuals should both keep it safe. They will need it if they later want to enter into another civil partnership or prove their separated status.

Dissolution Orders and Separation Orders

Separation Orders are different from Dissolution Orders. Whereas a Dissolution Order completely ends the civil partnership, a Separation Order allows the two parties to live apart while still being civil partners.
Earlier in the article, we stated that a civil partnership can only be dissolved if it has existed for a year or more. Before then, it is possible to apply to the court for a Separation Order to live independently.
Sometimes people feel as though a Separation Order is necessary to give them the time away from their partner to think about the relationship with a clear head, and to decide whether dissolving the civil partnership is the right course of action.
Reasons need to be given for a separation petition in much the same manner as applying for dissolution. However, it is not necessary to show an irretrievable breakdown of the relationship.
In conclusion, the process of dissolving a civil partnership is in many ways quite similar to the process of ending a marriage via divorce.

Expert legal advice

With the help of a family law solicitor, petitioning for a Dissolution Order to end a partnership is often a relatively straightforward matter - allowing both parties to get on with their separate lives with a minimum of animosity.
For further advice on civil partnerships, separation and divorce, please contact a member of our Family Law team.
Girlings has offices in Ashford, Canterbury and Herne Bay.

Before relying on this commentary please read the Reliance on information posted section in our Terms of Website Use in our Legal section. Please note that specialist advice should be taken in relation to any specific queries and the information above is provided for general information purposes only.


Curtis Wray

Associate Solicitor
Family Law


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Associate Solicitor
Family Law

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