Civil partnerships are a relatively new addition to the landscape of legal relationships. It’s only since 2005 that couples in the UK have been able to give notice of the intention to form a civil partnership. In the intervening years this alternative to the option of a full gay marriage (also now available) has been tested many times – and perhaps never more so than when it comes to dissolving the partnership. Divorce is a well-embedded concept in the UK but what happens if you want to split as a couple if you’re joined by a civil partnership instead?
The legal process
As a civil partnership is a legal arrangement, it also requires a legal process to bring it to an end. One or other of the people in the relationship must file a petition with the court requesting dissolution of the civil partnership in order to kick the process off. Dissolution requires that a couple have been in the civil partnership for more than a year – and that there is proof that the union has irretrievably broken down.
Grounds for dissolution
It is the grounds for dissolution that will provide the proof that the union has irretrievably broken down. This could be unreasonable behaviour, such as verbal or physical abuse or irresponsible financial decisions, as well as desertion i.e. your partner has left you without agreement. A civil partnership can also be dissolved if both parties have lived apart for two years and want the agreement to come to an end. As with a divorce, one party will need to start proceedings by being the petitioner.
The issue of adultery
As civil partnerships are same sex unions, adultery does not apply as a reason for a ‘divorce’ under these circumstances. The definition of adultery is a married partner having sex with someone of the opposite sex who is not their spouse. As a result, even if there has been cheating it’s not considered adultery unless it’s with someone of the opposite sex.
Money and children
If you want a relatively straightforward dissolution then try to sort out the most important issues – which are usually money and children – as soon as you can. Splitting the assets can take time, from deciding who gets what in terms of pensions and investments, to dividing up assets and property. If you have a child then it’s really important that you reach agreement as soon as possible on how that child is going to be cared for going forward so that there is as little disruption as possible to their life.
The importance of a Clean Break Order
The financial issues that surround a split are often complex. Once these have been worked through it’s crucial that a Clean Break Order is sought so that a line can be drawn under what were previously joint finances. There are many, many examples of couples who have not done this and who have ended up seriously entangled for years as a result. In order to protect both people, and encourage a relatively amicable end, the Clean Break Order is essential.