Ending a civil partnership; is it the same as a divorce?

Prior to 2014, same sex couples weren’t able to marry but instead could form a civil partnership which was recognised in law. But how do you go about ending a civil partnership when the relationship ends?

Ending a civil partnership is actually very similar to the process of divorce, except some of the terminology is different and you can’t cite adultery as a reason why the relationship has ended. To start with it’s called a dissolution rather than a divorce. Like divorce, you will need to have been in the civil partnership for at least a year and prove that the relationship has irretrievably broken down, citing one of the reasons below:

  • Your civil partner has behaved so unreasonably you cannot be expected to continue living with them
  • You have been separated for two years and you both consent to the divorce
  • You have been separated for five years, whether or not the other person agrees to the divorce
  • You have been deserted by your civil partner for at least two years

In a divorce, there is a fifth option of adultery. This is legally defined in this context as ‘sex with a member of the opposite sex outside the marriage’ and as such, doesn’t apply for same sex couples. You can however cite infidelity as an example of unreasonable behaviour.

An application will need to be made to court stating the reasons for ending the relationship. Once these have been accepted by the judge, a conditional order (the same as a decree nisi in a divorce) will be issued, followed six weeks later by a final order (decree absolute in a divorce) at which point the civil partnership is legally ended.

Where decisions need to be made regarding children and finances, separate proceedings will need to take place.