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I want to divorce my same sex partner. Where do I start?

The number of same-sex marriages ending in divorce is continuing to rise, according to the Office for National Statistics.

A total of 428 same-sex couples divorced last year compared to 338 in 2017, an increase of more than a quarter and the third consecutive annual rise since figures on same-sex divorce were first collated in 2015.

More same-sex marriages

This increase reflects the growth in the number of same-sex couples now tying the knot, up by 8.1 per cent to 7,019 in 2016.

However, the latest figures for same-sex divorce buck the trend for divorce rates generally. The number of opposite sex couples divorcing in England and Wales has dropped to its lowest level for almost half a century.

In 2018, there were 90,871 opposite sex divorces, a drop of 10.6 per cent from the previous year with the overall decline in the popularity of marriage in favour of cohabitation seen as the primary reason.

Same-sex divorce proceedings

The process for seeking a divorce is identical for same-sex couples as it is for married couples of the opposite sex and comes under the same legislation.

The one crucial difference is that adultery cannot be used as a ‘fact’ to prove a same-sex relationship has irretrievably broken down. This is because, in law, adultery specifically relates to sex between a man and a woman.

To prove irretrievable breakdown, the court must be satisfied that one of the following grounds applies:

  • Unreasonable behaviour;
  • Desertion;
  • Separation of more than two years, if both parties agree;
  • Separation for more than five years without an agreement.

However, if infidelity is the reason behind the breakdown of a same-sex marriage, it may be possible to cite this as ‘unreasonable behaviour’.

Dissolving a civil partnership

Although civil partnerships became less popular immediately after same-sex marriage was introduced in 2014, there has been a recent small upsurge of interest with 956 civil partnerships formed in England and Wales in 2018, an increase of 5.3 per cent compared with 2017.

However, the number of dissolutions granted is down by nearly a quarter to 927 in 2018.

The process for dissolving a civil partnership is very similar to divorce but specialist legal advice in both instances is highly recommended.

For help and advice, please contact Wards Solicitors Family Law and Divorce team.

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Update: Covid-19 arrangements from 5 November 2020

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