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.
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.
The Partnership must have irretrievably broken down and one of the four following facts must be proved:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
The court sends the Petitioner’s solicitor a copy of the acknowledgement of service.
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.
Proof that the Respondent has received the petition will have to be obtained before the Petitioner can take the next step.
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.
(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.
Wards Solicitors remains open for business during the national lockdown and we are taking on new cases. We are available for video call and telephone meetings but cannot currently offer face to face meetings with clients except in some specific emergency situations and at court hearings.
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