Civil Partnership divorce: ending a Civil Partnership
In December 2005 the Civil Partnership Act became law and gay and lesbian couples were allowed to have their relationship legally recognised. We are now dealing with the breakdown of such relationships on a daily basis and receiving enquiries in relation to “divorce” - ending the partnership.
According to recent Government figures over 15,500 gay and lesbian couples registered civil partnerships between December 2005 and September 2006, suggesting government predictions of 22,000 partnerships by 2010 are likely to have significantly underestimated demand.
A Civil Partnership gives gay and lesbian couples the same legal rights as their straight counterparts, including becoming their partners next of kin and benefiting from pension and inheritance rights.
Dissolution is the legal term used to describe the termination of a civil partnership, a procedure very similar to divorce. To get a dissolution you must have been in a civil partnership for more than one year.
The legal process involved in a dissolution is very similar and just as formal as a divorce. One person needs to start the ball rolling – they are known as the “petitioner”. This person is responsible for proving that the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. The petitioner proves this by relying on one of four facts:
(a) The respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent (unreasonable behaviour)
(b) The parties to the civil partnership have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition and the respondent consents to an order being granted (separation)
(c) The parties to the civil partnership have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition, in this case there is no need for consent (separation).
(d) The respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of this petition (desertion).
The petitioner is required to complete a petition, which will contain details including the date you entered into the Civil Partnership, the last address you lived together as a couple and whether or not there are any children of the family.
The dissolution process generally takes between 3 and 5 months, depending on how quickly each party completes the documentation.
Alongside the dissolution, financial matters will also need to be resolved. In order to ensure that you achieve the best possible settlement, you should instruct a family solicitor to negotiate on your behalf. Any agreement reached must be embodied in a document known as a “consent Order”, which is lodged at Court. This will ensure that the terms of the settlement are legally binding.
The breakdown of any relationship is an extremely stressful time; ensuring that the paperwork side of things is done correctly will help minimise the stress.