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Divorce & Dissolution of Civil Partnerships

Family Law

Meet Sarah Finnis

Our Family Law team are available at our offices in in Ashford, Canterbury and Herne Bay to offer you advice tailored to your own specific circumstances.

It will probably not be necessary to attend a court hearing for the divorce or dissolution of civil partnership. Usually the process is carried out using the court’s online service or on paper by post. Mediation, collaborative law and arbitration are alternative options to court proceedings.

The divorce and civil partnership dissolution process is separate from dealing with financial settlement or arrangements for children – it simply ends your marriage or civil partnership. It may be necessary to attend court for financial matters or in relation to arrangements for children if these cannot be agreed.

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Grounds for divorce

The only ground for divorce is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. However, the marriage must have been in existence for one year and until the divorce law changes, (which is due in April 2022) to show the marriage has irretrievably broken down you must rely on one of the following five facts:

  1. Your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to carry on living together
  2. Your spouse’s unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion after a period of two years or more
  4. You have lived apart for more than two years and both spouses agree to the divorce
  5. You have lived apart for more than five years (then you do not require the other spouse’s consent).
The divorce process

Divorce proceedings are started by lodging the divorce petition with the court, together with the marriage certificate and the court fee (unless you are exempt from paying this fee). The court will then send the divorce documents to your spouse, who should then respond with an acknowledgement that they have been served with these documents.

Defended divorces are rare, and presuming that the case proceeds on an undefended basis the next step will be to make an application for decree nisi.

Six weeks and a day after decree nisi it is possible to apply for decree absolute. This is when the divorce is finalised.

Grounds for dissolution of a civil partnership

A civil partnership is a legally-registered relationship between two people. The procedure for dissolution of a civil partnership is similar to that of a divorce and the same financial remedies are available as those available to a spouse who seeks a divorce.

Since 31 December 2019, civil partnerships which were previously only available to couples of the same sex, have been available to opposite sex couples.

To end a civil partnership you have to show the relationship has irretrievably broken down and rely on one of the following four grounds.

  1. Your partner’s unreasonable behaviour
  2. Desertion after a period of two years or more
  3. You have lived apart for more than two years and both parties agree to the dissolution
  4. You have lived apart for more than five years (then you do not require the other party’s consent).

The procedure mirrors that of divorce – with different terminology being used.

Civil Partnership dissolution process

You can apply to end (‘dissolve’) your civil partnership if you have been in the partnership for at least a year.

Dissolution proceedings are started by lodging a dissolution application with the court, together with your civil partnership certificate and upon payment of the court fee (unless you are exempt from paying this fee). The court will then send the application to the other civil partner.

The other civil partner then completes and returns the form sent to them by the court indicating whether they agree or intend to object to the dissolution.

A copy of that response is then sent to the applicant who may then apply for a conditional order. This conditional order sets out that there no reason why the applicant should not be legally permitted to bring the partnership to an end.

Then six weeks and a day after the conditional order the application for a final order can be made - this legally ends your civil partnership.

The above information is for initial guidance only.

For further advice, please contact a member of our Family Law team based in Canterbury, Ashford and Herne Bay.

Our Experts

Sarah Finnis

Head of Department
Family Law

Amanda Wilson

Partner
Family Law

Gemma Purt

Partner
Family Law

Curtis Wray

Associate Solicitor
Family Law

Megan Mahesan

Assistant Solicitor
Family Law

Related Pages

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Divorce Advice

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Is there a fee for filing a divorce petition?

Yes, please see the current court issue fee here.

It is possible that you may be entitled to a reduction in the court issue fee, or even, a full remission. Guidance can be found on the government’s website in relation to fee remissions/reductions.

What happens once I have filed a divorce petition?

Once received, the Court will review the divorce petition to ensure that it has been completed correctly. If all is in order, the Court will send a copy of the Divorce Petition to your spouse together with a document known as an Acknowledgement of Service for them to complete and return. You will not be able to progress your divorce proceedings until the Court has received the completed Acknowledgement of Service or it has been confirmed that your spouse is aware of the proceedings. If you need any assistance progressing your divorce proceedings, do not hesitate to contact our Family Law team.

My spouse hasn’t returned the Acknowledgement of Service form?

If your spouse fails to return the Acknowledgement of Service to the Court, do not worry, there are other ways in which you can prove to the Court that your spouse has received the divorce petition.

For example, it is common practice to instruct a Process Server to personally serve the divorce papers upon your spouse and provide you with evidence of service which you can send to the Court.

Other alternatives are seeking to dispense with the need for service of the proceedings or providing evidence to the Court that your spouse is aware of the proceedings.

If you are facing difficulty with proving to the Court that your spouse is aware of the proceedings, or has been served with the Court papers, contact our Family Law team who will be happy to assist you.

How long will the divorce process take?

Although divorce proceedings may take around 6-8 months, sometimes proceedings may be delayed.

Factors such as the Court’s case workload, determining the financial aspects of your divorce or any difficulty proving that your spouse has been provided with the divorce papers can impact this timeline.

There may also be reasons why you should not finalise your divorce proceedings, often for financial reasons including pension provision. For further advice contact our Family Law team.

What if there are financial issues to be resolved in the divorce?

If there are financial issues that need to be resolved, you should seek legal advice from the outset. Each party has a duty of full and frank financial disclosure and there are a variety of ways to resolve financial matters, such as

What is the difference between a Decree Nisi and a Decree Absolute?

The Decree Nisi is the first order made by the Court within divorce proceedings which confirms that the petitioner is entitled to a divorce. It does not end the marriage.

A Decree Nisi, which is pronounced in open court, is the confirmation that a judge has reviewed your divorce proceedings and is satisfied that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of marriage. Unless there is a disagreement on costs, neither party is required to attend the pronouncement hearing.

The Decree Absolute is the second and final order made within divorce proceedings. It is the Decree Absolute that ends the marriage.

There are financial implications to applying for a Decree Absolute and you may wish to obtain legal advice as to whether such an application should be made if you have not yet reached a financial agreement with your spouse. Please contact our family law team if you require any further information.

The applicant can apply for the Decree Nisi to be made Absolute 6 weeks and 1 day after the date upon which the Decree Nisi was pronounced.

The respondent (the spouse who did not issue divorce proceedings) can also apply for the Decree Nisi to be made Absolute but is unable to do so until three months have passed following the first date upon which the applicant could have file such an application.

How do I commence court proceedings in respect of finances?

Court proceedings in respect of matrimonial finances are known as financial remedy proceedings. You can issue these proceedings by completing and sending a document known as a Form A to the Court.

You will not be able to issue financial remedy proceedings if you are not a party to divorce proceedings.

Also, it is usually a requirement that any individual seeking to issue financial remedy proceedings attend an initial meeting with a mediator, known as a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (a “MIAM”) prior to attempting to issue legal proceedings, however in some cases an exemption can be applied for.

Do contact us directly if you wish to discuss mediation or initiating financial remedy proceedings.

Can my divorced spouse make a financial claim against me?

Yes. If you do not resolve financial matters then even after a divorce has ended with the pronouncement of decree absolute, a divorced spouse may still be able to make a financial claim against their ex-spouse.

To prevent any future financial claims being made, you should seek advice to ensure there is a court order in place to dismiss those potential future claims. For further advice contact our Family Law team.

Can financial issues be considered following civil partnership breakdown?

Yes. If there are financial issues that need to be resolved, you should seek legal advice from the outset. Each party has a duty of full and frank financial disclosure and there are a variety of ways to resolve financial matters, such as

Can my civil partner make a financial claim against me once our partnership has been dissolved?

Yes. If you do not resolve financial matters then even after a civil partnership has ended, financial claims can potentially still be made.

To prevent any future financial claims being made, you should seek advice to ensure there is a court order in place to dismiss those potential future claims. For further advice contact our Family Law team.

Do civil partners have the same financial claims as married couples when they separate?

Yes, as well as having the same rights as a married couple with regard to tax and inheritance during the civil partnership, civil partners also have the ability to make financial claims in the same way as divorcing couples.