Civil Partnerships came into effect in December 2005 as a result of the Civil Partnership Act 2004. A Civil Partnership can be entered into by a same sex couple and is a same sex marriage in all but name. Civil Partnership should not be confused with the term 'civil marriage', as this is a secular wedding service which, of course, has always been available to couples of the opposite sex.

Equal Rights and Responsibilities

  • My partner and I want to enter into a Civil Partnership. Is it really correct that we have the same rights as married couples?
  • Are there any differences in terms of our rights?

Same sex couples now benefit from identical status to married couples, with the same remedies available during their lifetime and also on death or should the relationship otherwise come to an end. Same sex couples are given the same protection from domestic violence as heterosexual couples. They have the same rights in relation to children as married couples. Since the introduction of civil partnerships, they have proved to be extremely popular.

Financial Implications

  • Do I have the right to pursue pension claims against my former civil partner in relation to his pensions which largely accrued during the time that we lived together?
  • I know that law discriminates against us in relation to children. I assume that I am right?

Civil partners are treated in the same way as married couples for all tax purposes and in relation to many welfare benefits.

The courts have the same powers to make financial orders on the dissolution of a civil partnership as they do on divorce when a marriage breaks down.

The legislation in relation to inheritance on death has also been extended to cover civil partners so that they now have the right to make a claim on their late partner's estate if inadequate or no provision has been made for them by Will.

Civil partners are also able to acquire parental responsibility for their partner's children in certain circumstances and adopt a child jointly with their civil partner.

Some pension entitlements have been brought into line with those for married couples although differences are likely to remain for several years to come. Importantly in relation to the basic state pension, a former civil partner's contribution record may be used by surviving and former civil partners if this is more favourable than their own.

However, surviving partner's pensions in the public sector will only mirror widowers' but not widow's rights.

Dissolution of a Civil Partnership

  • How do you end a Civil Partnership? What is the legal process? I do not know anyone who has been through it.
  • What do you have to prove for there to be a dissolution?
  • Someone told me that there is a difference from divorce in that you cannot commit adultery. Is this true?

A Civil Partnership can be ended only by dissolution, annulment or death. Dissolution is similar to divorce in that it is necessary to establish that the relationship has irretrievably broken down and this is demonstrated by one of four facts (not adultery):-

  • Behaviour by a civil partner (called the Respondent) which means that the other civil partner (called the Applicant) cannot reasonably be expected to live with the Respondent;
  • Desertion of the Applicant by the Respondent for a period of 2 years or more;
  • Separation of the parties to a civil partnership for 2 years or more and the parties agree to dissolution of the partnership;
  • Separation of the parties to a civil partnership for 5 years or more.

Like with married couples, a civil partner cannot file a petition for a Dissolution Order until a year has elapsed since the formation of the partnership. Dissolution Orders will initially be conditional and an application will need to be made to finalise the order. This can be submitted to court when six weeks and one day have passed from the date upon which the conditional dissolution order was pronounced. Again in this way, the dissolution of a civil partnership is similar to a divorce in that with the latter, Decree Nisi is pronounced and then the Decree Absolute is subsequently granted on application.

Separation for Civil Partners

  • A Dissolution Order and a Separation Order – what is the difference?
  • We have just separated. Why would we need a Separation Order?
  • Is a Separation Agreement worthwhile? Will it benefit us?
  • The Separation Agreement will be binding won't it? After all, it was agreed between us.
  • What are the criteria which would cause the Separation Agreement to be set aside by a judge?

A Separation Order is very similar to the effect of and procedure for civil partnership dissolution. The courts have power to make certain orders in respect of finances and the children. However, the couple's Civil Partnership remains in place at the end of the process, just the same as with the granting of a Judicial Separation for married couples. The facts become grounds for a separation order rather than a dissolution and there is only one order as oppose to a conditional and then a final order.

Again as with Judicial Separation, this is not a commonly sought out process but may be an option where couples wish to live separately as if their partnership was dissolved but cannot apply for dissolution perhaps for religious reasons or because they have been in a civil partnership for less than a year (as they will be barred from applying until the first anniversary of their civil partnership ceremony).

A Separation Agreement

  • My solicitor says that I have to exchange all sorts of financial disclosure with my civil partner before the Separation Agreement is signed. Is this really necessary?
  • I cannot stand the prospect of a dissolution so perhaps a Separation Order will be much less bother?
Couples who do not wish to dissolve their civil partnership immediately but intend to do so in the future may wish to make their separation more formal by entering into a Separation Agreement. There is no obligation to do so and they may simply choose to live apart without any formalities. The purpose of a Separation Agreement is to record details of the financial arrangements agreed between you after the separation and also arrangements about children, if appropriate.

A Separation Agreement can be useful during a trial separation as it will regulate financial issues in the interim and can be the first step towards dealing with a dissolution in future years.

The fact that there is a Separation Agreement dealing with finance and/or property does not preclude either party from making a comprehensive application to the court for financial relief in later dissolution proceedings For the Separation Agreement to stand any chance of being taken into account by a Judge the parties must have exchanged full and frank financial details of their finances and each should have received independent legal advice. It is also important the terms of the agreement are fair. A Separation Agreement can be void for mistake or fraud and can be set aside on the grounds of misrepresentation, duress or undue influence.

Often it is intended that the Separation Agreement will form the basis of the final settlement within dissolution proceedings and is good evidence of your intentions at the time of separation. The court, as referred to above, must consider that the agreement is fair before it receives judicial approval. A Judge will not simply ‘rubber stamp' it.

Dissolution of a Civil Partnership

  • The terms are different but achieving a Dissolution Order looks the same as securing a divorce.
  • Explain the procedure please.
  • What is a Statement of Arrangements for children and an Acknowledgement of Service?
  • What is a Conditional Dissolution Order?
  • We have our Dissolution Order. Is that the end of all financial claims?
  • Do I need another Will to be done?

Every Civil Partnership is different and as a result, every dissolution is different. At Blackdown Family Law Solicitors, we will guide you through the dissolution process, listening to your needs and providing you with advice, information, reassurance and support about the procedure, finances and arrangements in relation to any children.

The Applicant partner (the Applicant) will send the Application for Dissolution (which is similar to a Divorce Petition) to their designated civil partnership proceedings county court. The Applicant will also need to submit the Civil Partnership Certificate, a Certificate of Reconciliation and the court fee which is currently £340.00. In addition, if there are children, the Applicant must send a Statement of Arrangements for Children. This Statement will set out how the couple plan to look after any children after the dissolution. Ideally, the Applicant will have sent drafts of the Application for Dissolution and the Statement of Arrangements to the Respondent beforehand. If there are problems between the parents concerning the matters within this document, separate advice will be required to deal with issues relating to the children.

The court will issue the Application with a case number and will then send a copy of this and the Statement of Arrangements for Children to the Respondent who must complete and submit a signed form of Acknowledgement of Service to the court confirming that they have been received.

The court office will send a copy of the Acknowledgement of Service to the Applicant who will then swear an affidavit in support of the Application. This is sent to the court together with their application for a Conditional Dissolution Order (otherwise known as an Application for Directions for Trial).

This is the stage when a Judge will consider the papers and decide whether the Civil Partnership should be dissolved. If the judge is content with the papers they will give notice to both parties of a date when the Conditional Dissolution Order will be pronounced in court. In the majority of cases neither party will be required to attend the hearing.

The Conditional Order is then sent to each partner. The Applicant can, after a minimum of six weeks and one day, apply for the Dissolution Order to be made final. In theory both are then free to marry again although it is generally preferable to resolve financial claims before doing so. These are described in some detail on this website under Matrimonial Financial Litigation.

Following the final Order, the civil partnership is over but there are other issues to consider. For example there will be an effect upon any Will and hence it is important to ensure that a new Will is made unless this has already been done (preferably at the time of separation).
It is also important to note that the dissolution will not dismiss either you or your ex partner's financial claims, emphasising the need to resolve these ideally before the Dissolution Order.

Financial Claims

What powers does a Judge have on a Dissolution Order to deal with our finances?

    The courts have the power to make the same financial orders on the dissolution of a civil partnership as they do divorce, namely an order for:

  • One party to make to the other party, periodical payments for the period of time that is specified in the order – known as maintenance.
  • One party to pay a lump sum or sums of money to the other party.
  • One party to make periodical payments for the benefit of any children of the family for as long as the court decides is necessary – known as child maintenance.
  • One party to pay a lump sum or sums of money for the benefit of any children.
  • One party to transfer property (residential or business) specified by the court to the other party or to a child of the family.
  • A settlement of specific property; that is set up a trust, for the benefit of the other party and/or a child of the family.
  • The variation for the benefit of the parties and or child (ren) any ante-civil partnership or post-civil partnership settlement (including a settlement made by Will or Codicil) made on the parties.
  • Extinguish or reduce the interest of either of the parties under such a settlement.
  • The sale of specified property and the distribution of the proceeds as the court sees fit.
  • The sharing of one or more pensions.

An application is made to court using the same process as described in detail in our section on Matrimonial Financial Litigation.

The checklist for the exercise of the court's discretionary powers to make financial orders on the dissolution of a civil partnership is the same as for marriage. The relevant factors are set out below and the Judge must give first consideration to the welfare of any children of the family who are under the age of 18.

In brief, they are:-

  • The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources that each party has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future, including in the case of earning capacity, any increase in that capacity which it would in the opinion of the court be reasonable to expect a party to take steps to acquire.
  • The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each party has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future.
  • The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the civil partnership.
  • The age of each party and the duration of the civil partnership.
  • Any physical or mental disability of either party.
  • The contributions which each party has made or is likely to make in the foreseeable future to the welfare of the family, including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family.
  • The conduct of each of the parties, if that conduct is such that it would be inequitable to disregard it.
  • The value to each of the parties to the civil partnership of any benefit which, by reason of the dissolution, that party will lose the chance of acquiring.
These criteria have been explained in our separate website page entitled ‘Financial Settlements on Divorce'.


John Turner, the Principal of Blackdown Family Law Solicitors, is a highly skilled solicitor who has dealt with separation and the dissolution of Civil Partnerships since their inception in 2005 and relationship breakdown for the last 22 years. He will advise you on the most cost effective and efficient way of proceeding with a separation whilst taking into account all of the circumstances of your case. He understands that separation can be an emotional and testing time for all those involved and is there to help shoulder the burden for you so that you can begin the process of rebuilding your life.

Areas of Family Law Work
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