Civil partnership dissolution

Civil partnership dissolution – providing legal advice and support

The dissolution of a civil partnership can be a challenging time for anyone. It can be a significant stressor, creating a mental burden that is an added pressure to already hectic lives. As well as the present, it affects the future. You will need to make critical decisions concerning personal and business matters, childcare arrangements and any child maintenance payments. Having the right support is key to getting these decisions right.

At Anthony Collins Solicitors, our team of family solicitors are here to help should you decide to permanently end your civil partnership. Our team can also help with a range of related services, including:

Our goal is to work with you and support you in finding the best solution for you moving forward. With our dedicated family team, you will be in safe hands throughout every stage of the process.

What is the difference between dissolution and divorce?

Whilst dissolution and divorce are both used to end legally binding contracts, it is important to note that they do have some differences.

Dissolution takes place between individuals who have entered into a civil partnership, whereas divorces take place between married couples. In a civil partnership, the signed civil partnership document that initiates the partnership needs to have the name of both parents of each individual. Whereas the marriage certificate must have the name of just their father. While civil partnerships often do not come with the same traditional and religious connotations as a marriage, the rights and obligations are almost identical. This extends not only to the available financial provision upon separation but also in respect of the rules of inheritance and available tax entitlements.

If you would like to know more about divorce and how Anthony Collins Solicitors can help you, please visit our divorce page. Similarly, if you would like to know more about the rules of inheritance or tax entitlements, click here.

Is the dissolution of your civil partnership the right option?

When a civil partnership breaks down, there are a number of options available to you. One of these is applying to dissolve the partnership. Other options could include legal separation, counselling, mediation and annulment of the partnership agreement (only available in very rare circumstances). Depending on your current situation the options available will vary.

In the UK, there are some basic requirements you must meet before you can apply to dissolve your civil partnership:

  1. You entered into the civil partnership agreement over one year ago
  2. Your civil partnership has been legally recognised in the UK
  3. Your civil partnership has permanently broken down
  4. Either you or your partner has a permanent home in the UK

The law has recently changed. Consequently, once you have met the above requirements you are able to apply to dissolve your partnership provided you confirm that your civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. This replaces the old, fault-based legislation where the applicant had to blame the breakdown of the partnership on the respondent’s unreasonable behaviour if the parties had not been separated for long enough, or where the parties had been separated long enough but the other party wouldn’t agree to the dissolution proceeding.  

Anthony Collins Solicitors wholly endorse the recent changes to the law as we believe that reducing the acrimony between parties helps pave the way for more constructive negotiations on issues pertaining to the parties’ finances and/or arrangements for the child/ren.

Whatever your circumstances may be, our experienced family solicitors can help you decide whether divorce is the best option for you.

Grounds for dissolution

As of 6 April 2022, no-fault divorce, or to give the legislation its full title the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, will end the previous fault-based approach. Whilst the colloquial naming of this legislation references marriages, the legislation equally applies to civil partnership dissolution applications.

Therefore, provided you have been married for at least one year, the applicant will simply sign a statement to confirm the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. This will be accepted by the court as meeting the legal requirements so as to allow the dissolution to proceed. It will also be possible for the parties to jointly apply by submitting a joint application.

If you are not ready to dissolve your partnership yet, you could consider a legal separation so that you can live apart from your partner without ending the partnership. If in the first year of your partnership, you could apply for the partnership document to be annulled if the civil partnership is void or voidable – this is different from dissolving your partnership and will only apply in very limited circumstances.

The dissolution process

The dissolution process can be nerve-wracking and stressful for all involved. We have outlined the key steps in the process below:

  • To apply to dissolve your civil partnership, you will need the full name and address of your spouse (and preferably their email address), your civil partnership document and proof of your name change if you’ve changed it since you entered into your partnership. We can assist you in locating your partner for your application, should you be unaware of their current address.
  • You will need to pay a £593 fee for the cost of the application (correct at the time of publication).
  • You can apply to dissolve your partnership online or through the post. If you are instructing a solicitor, the application will be made online.
  • Once processed, you will receive a notification that your application has been issued and a copy of your application with the stamp of the court and a case number. Depending on whether your application is being dealt with online will dictate whether these notifications are received via email/pdf documents or hardcopy via the post.
  • Your partner will receive a copy of your application and an acknowledgement of service form. This will be sent by both email and by post.
  • Your partner must respond to the court using the acknowledgement of service to confirm they have received the application but also if they intend to dispute the dissolution application (only available in two discrete circumstances), or object to paying any claimed costs.
  • If your partner does not respond to the court using the acknowledgement of service form, then steps will need to be taken to have them served with the application. This is usually done through the instruction of a process server but could be by alternative means if allowed by the court.
  • You must then wait for 20-weeks from the date of issuing your application before you can apply for your conditional order. It is following your application for the conditional order that the court will review all the documents: the application, acknowledgement of service (or proof of service) and the conditional order application. The court will then confirm that the applicant has satisfied the requirements needed and that they are entitled to dissolve their civil partnership. You will then receive your conditional order which is the first of the orders needed to dissolve your civil partnership.
  • If you can’t dissolve your civil partnership, usually due to an error in the drafting of the application or an administration query, you will receive a notice of refusal form explaining what to do next.
  • After your conditional order has been granted, you must wait at least six weeks and a day after the date of the conditional order before you can apply for your final order dissolving your civil partnership, which is the legal document that ends your civil partnership.

Many people delay applying for their final order dissolving their civil partnership until the financial aspects of their civil partnership have been resolved. However, please note, that if you are applying for your final order more than twelve months after your conditional order was made, then your application will need to be supplemented by a statement confirming the reason for the delay, that there has been no period of reconciliation that would prohibit your final order dissolving your civil partnership being made and that there have been no children of the civil partnership born during the period.

Once the court makes the final order dissolving your civil partnership, the civil partnership is dissolved and the parties are free to enter into further civil partnerships or re-marry.

What to expect from our solicitors

Here at Anthony Collins Solicitors, we have the best family law team on hand ready to support you. Our family lawyers are friendly, approachable and supportive. For each case, we appoint a dedicated solicitor that will review your situation and recommend the best option(s) for you.

In the first instance, our goal will be to resolve the dissolution of your civil partnership, financial issues and any arrangements for the child/ren without it becoming protracted or contested, thereby avoiding having to attend any court hearings. This will help keep the costs at a minimum. We’ll recommend several dispute resolution options for you, which may include mediation, collaborative law, arbitration and solicitor-led negotiations. If these options aren’t right for you or, depending on your former partner’s approach to matters, we may recommend court proceedings.

There have been circumstances where we have advised clients to proceed with a court application early in the dissolution process, especially if it’s in their best interests. For example, complex finance cases involving businesses, trusts and assets may require the intervention of the court. If court is the only option for you, our experienced solicitors will guide you at every step. No matter how complex your case is, we’ll use the strength of our property, employment, tax, trust and business lawyers to assist with achieving an outcome in line with your goals.

If you would like to discuss the civil partnership dissolution process or any issues concerning the breakdown of a relationship, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Changes to legal aid funding

From 1 April 2013, the overhaul of the availability of public funding (legal aid) for a range of areas of law for individuals on low incomes saw the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. This has affected the funding of many new cases and only those who meet the very specific requirements set by the Legal Aid Agency will be eligible for funding. Our family solicitors will be able to advise you on whether you are eligible for legal aid funding,

As a respected law firm, our family solicitors are passionate about delivering expert legal advice to support you every step of the way. Our experienced team has the knowledge, experience and sensitivity to assist individuals and their families through periods of uncertainty and difficulty.

Frequently asked questions

  • When can I apply for a civil partnership dissolution?

    If you have been married to your spouse for more than one year, you can apply for a civil partnership dissolution. There is now no need for legally recognised reasons for the irretrievable breakdown of your civil partnership due to the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 otherwise known as no-fault divorce. Whilst the colloquial naming of this legislation references marriages, the legislation equally applies to civil partnership dissolution applications.

    If your partnership was formed less than a year ago, there are options available to you, such as annulment of the civil partnership agreement (limited applicability), mediation and legal separation.

  • How long does a civil partnership dissolution take?

    If everything goes smoothly, then the minimum time to dissolve your civil partnership is 26 weeks. However, this may not always be the case, especially when there are businesses, money, assets or children involved. Certainly, parties may wish to delay applying for their final order until financial matters have been agreed/determined by the court.

  • How much does it cost to end a civil partnership?

    In the UK, you must pay a £593 fee when applying to dissolve your civil partnership. However, this fee covers the applications for both the conditional order and final order dissolving the civil partnership, so no additional fees are payable unless additional applications are required i.e. service by a bailiff or deemed service.

    You may be able to get money off your court fee if you are on benefits or have a low income. It is advisable that any application for help with court fees is made at the outset but you may be able to reclaim any court fees paid, as long as the application to reclaim those fees is made within three months of payment. Please note that the court fee does not include the costs that you may incur through court proceedings (i.e. resolving financial matters and/or arrangements for the child/ren) and/or legal advice.

  • Who gets custody of the child when dissolving your civil partnership?

    Firstly, the court encourages the adoption of less contentious terminology when dealing with arrangements for a child. Parties are encouraged to think of arrangements as to where a child will live i.e. what is commonly thought of as primary custody or residency and whom a child will spend time with i.e. what is commonly thought of as contact.

    If both parents can decide whom the child is to live with and how the child will spend time with the other parent, then the court will not usually intervene in the decisions made by the parents. This includes where parents decide to have a shared care arrangement for the child wherein the child lives with both parents albeit for differing amounts of time. Arrangements for children can take many formats and there is no one size fits all approach to what may or may not work for your family.

    Where parents can’t agree on the arrangements for a child, i.e. both parents want the child to live with them primarily or they cannot agree on the amount of time one parent will spend with the child, then parties would be encouraged to attend and engage in mediation and other avenues of alternative dispute resolution. However, ultimately if an agreement cannot be reached, then one or both of the parents will need to make an application to the court for the court to determine the arrangements.

    If the case is taken to court, then a number of factors will be considered to determine the arrangements for a child. The main factor that courts consider is what is in the best interests of the child. If one parent is able to meet the child’s needs more in comparison to the other parent, then the court may determine that the child should live with that parent. Other factors could include the relationship between the parent and child, the parent’s health and work obligations, as well as the child’s own preference.

  • Who pays the solicitor’s fees when dissolving your civil partnership?

    The person applying to dissolve the civil partnership (the applicant) will in most cases pay the court fee of £593 upfront or, if they are from a low-income household, they may be eligible for help with the court fee.

    As a result of the changes to legislation and the removal of fault-based applications, applicants are discouraged from making cost applications unless a respondent has held up the application, for example, by evading the application being served on them and thereby causing you to incur unnecessary costs.

    Alternatively, you may agree separately with your spouse that they will contribute to your legal fees or a request can be made for them to contribute to the costs, albeit this may not be directed by the court.

  • Do both parties need a solicitor when dissolving your civil partnership?

    No. Both parties are not legally required to have a solicitor. If both parties can come to an agreement on how assets and childcare responsibilities will be shared, then there is no need for any solicitors. However, if one or both parties are in disagreement, then solicitors may be needed to come to an agreement.

  • Do we need separate solicitors or lawyers when dissolving our civil partnership?

    It is very difficult for one solicitor to represent both parties in an application. An application to dissolve a civil partnership is usually a gateway to resolving the matrimonial finances that exist and are intertwined between the parties. Since neither party will know if the decision was one-sided or fair if they were both represented by one solicitor, we at Anthony Collins Solicitors have made the decision that we will only represent one party in an application. This does not prevent a joint application from being submitted to dissolve the civil partnership, just that we would only be advising one of the parties.

    Many people think that having a separate solicitor means that the application to dissolve the civil partnership will get messy and that they’ll end up in court. This is not true. We promote and encourage working alongside your partner or their solicitor to progress the application, however, you can be confident that the advice we provide is bespoke to you, your circumstances and the goals you wish to achieve. Wherever possible our aim is to resolve the application and any ancillary matters by agreement and without court intervention.

    In a nutshell, if one party instructs Anthony Collins Solicitors we can work alongside the other party (with or without a solicitor) to progress the application.

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