To apply for a civil partnership dissolution, you must provide the court with relevant legal grounds for the partnership to be brought to an end.
Grounds for civil partnership dissolution
In England and Wales, as with divorce, there is no system of no-fault dissolution. You cannot simply state that you have fallen out of love or that you have grown apart.
An application for a dissolution order may be made by either civil partner on the ground that the relationship has “broken down irretrievably”, i.e. to the point where it cannot be saved. To satisfy the statutory “irretrievable breakdown” requirement, you must prove one of the following four sets of facts:
- Unreasonable behaviour: your partner has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. This could include physical or verbal abuse, financial irresponsibility or sexual infidelity.
- Desertion: your partner has left you, against your wishes and without good reason, for a continuous period of at least 2 years.
- 2-year separation with consent: you and your partner have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 2 years, and you both agree to end the civil partnership.
- 5-year separation without consent: you and your partner have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 5 years. With a 5-year separation the consent of both parties is not needed.
Legal separation in a civil partnership
If you do not want to officially bring your civil partnership to an end, perhaps to allow you and your partner some time to reconcile, or it has been less than one year since you registered your partnership, you can apply for a legal separation to live apart.
In granting a separation order, the court will have regard to the same facts as those that can be relied upon when applying for a dissolution order, i.e. unreasonable behaviour, desertion, or that you and your civil partner have been living apart for a minimum of two or five years.
However, with a legal separation, neither of you will be free to register another civil partnership, or to marry, unless and until the court grants a final order following an application for dissolution.
Annulling a civil partnership
To annul a civil partnership means to declare it invalid. The court may grant an annulment in circumstances where either it can be shown that the civil partnership is void or voidable.
A civil partnership may be void in circumstances where either you, or your civil partner, were under the age of 16 at the time of entering into that partnership. It may also be declared void if certain formalities were not met, for example, that due notice of the proposed civil partnership had not been given prior to registering.
If your civil partnership is not legally valid, the court will treat it as if it had never taken place or ever existed.
A civil partnership will be voidable, for example, if either you or your civil partner did not give valid consent, whether because you were forced or not of sound mind. Alternatively, it may be voidable where one of you, although capable of giving a valid consent, was suffering from a mental disorder that made you unfit for a civil partnership.
If voidable, this means the civil partnership was legal at the time it was registered, but it isn’t legal any longer.
If you want to apply for an annulment, generally speaking you must do so within three years of the date you registered your civil partnership, or after three years with leave of the court.
Taking legal advice about civil partnership dissolution
Taking legal advice can help you to understand and enforce your legal rights if your relationship has broken down.
Other rules must be taken into consideration, for example, you cannot apply to dissolve your civil partnership within the first 12 months of the legal partnership.
While disputes about joint finances or custody of any children can become complicated and protract proceedings, typically the legal process that is required to officially end a civil partnership can, in itself, be relatively quick and straightforward.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.