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Ending your Civil Partnership

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At Wards Solicitors, our family lawyers are experienced in providing practical and supportive advice and can help you identify and prioritise the issues. We have further factsheets on finances, children and injunctions. The information in those factsheets apply to both divorces and Civil Partnership dissolutions. If you have any questions, please contact us.

Obtaining a dissolution order to end a Civil Partnership is usually straightforward, particularly if the couple agrees that the partnership is over. Difficulties tend to arise in resolving practical issues such as how to separate, where to live, arrangements for children and money matters.

Outlined below is a summary of the dissolution process highlighting key points and sets out a typical timetable.

Who can start dissolution proceedings?

Anyone who has been in a formal Civil Partnership for over a year, provided one of the couple either currently lives in or has lived in England or Wales during the preceding year. It does not matter where the partnership was made. If less than a year has gone by since the Civil Partnership – or if you don’t want to end the Civil Partnership – you can apply for a Separation Order which gives the court the authority to deal with financial issues.

On what grounds can a Civil Partnership be dissolved/a separation order be made?

The Partnership must have irretrievably broken down and one of the four following facts must be proved:

  1. Y our partner has behaved in such a way that it would be unreasonable to expect you to continue living together.
  2. Your partner has deserted you for a continuous period of 2 years or more.
  3. You and your partner have been living separately for 2 years or more, and your spouse agrees to the dissolution.
  4. Y ou and your partner have been living separately for 5 years or more, whether or not your partner consents to the dissolution.

The difference between dissolution and separation proceedings is that at the end of the latter, the Civil Partnership still exists and therefore neither of you will be able to enter another Civil Partnership or marry until a dissolution order is obtained.

If the partnership has irretrievably broken down, what happens next?

We will draft the paperwork to start the proceedings. Your Partnership Certificate has to be sent to the court at the start of your case and will not be returned to you. If this causes a problem, please speak to us.

When are financial matters dealt with?

It is not necessary for financial discussions to be completed by the time the dissolution is final. Frequently they will still be in the early stages. However, it should at least be possible to resolve immediate problems and make any interim maintenance arrangements.

We may advise you to delay application for the Dissolution Order until a financial settlement is ordered to protect your rights.

Are the proceedings public?

Court proceedings in family law are usually private. This means that the public and press are not allowed access to the court papers.

However, the press are able to publish the fact that a Dissolution Order has been pronounced. The information that they may disclose is very limited. They can disclose the ‘facts’ of the Dissolution but they are not able to publish details, e.g. of the unreasonable behaviour.

 

Timetable for dissolution

1. After one year of partnership.

Either partner may start the proceedings. He or she is referred to as the Petitioner. The Petition is sent to the court. A court fee is payable, unless the Petitioner is exempt.

2. Within a few days of sending thePetition to the court.

The court sends a copy of the Petition to the other partner, (called the Respondent) or to his or her solicitor, if there is one.

3. From the date the documents arereceived the Respondent has time limits.

(a) Within 7 days.

The Respondent should send the court a Acknowledgement of Service form, which accompanied the petition. This asks whether they intend to defend the case.

(b) Within 28 days of receipt (longer if the documents are sent abroad).

The Respondent must, if he or she intends to defend the Petition, file a Defence (called an Answer). The Petition then becomes defended and the procedure outlined below does not apply. Defended proceedings resulting in a fully contested hearing are very rare. However, a delay in finalising the dissolutions is in evitable.

4. On receiving the Acknowledgement of Service from the Respondent.

The court sends the Petitioner’s solicitor a copy of the acknowledgement of service.

5. If the Respondent is not defendingthe Petition, the Petitioner can apply for a Conditional Order to be pronounced.

The Petitioner’s solicitor prepares a statement confirming that the contents of the Petition are true and whether any circumstances have changed. The Petitioner signs a statement confirming it is true and it is sent to the court requesting a date for the first decree of dissolution (Conditional Order) to be set.

6. If the Acknowledgement of serviceis not returned to the court.

Proof that the Respondent has received the petition will have to be obtained before the Petitioner can take the next step.

7. On receipt by the court of theapplication for a date for pronouncement of the Conditional Order.

A judge reviews the papers and usually gives a certificate for the Conditional Order to be pronounced. Both the Petitioner and the Respondent are then advised of the date fixed for Conditional Order. This is likely to be a few weeks after. The couple do not have to attend court.

8. At least six weeks after the Conditional Order.

(a) The Petitioner may apply for the Dissolution Order. The Dissolution Order may be available as quickly as the same day.

(b) The Respondent may apply for the

Dissolution Order if the Petitioner has not already done so. However, such an application is not automatically granted. If you are in this position as a Respondent we will provide you with full advice.

Please click here for more information on divorce and relationship breakdown

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