A Civil Partnership is essentially a form of marriage between same-sex couples. The formalities of entering into a Civil Partnership and the law that applies if a Civil Partnership breaks down can be found in the Civil Partnership Act 2004.
Now that same sex marriage is permitted in law, we anticipate few (if any) couples will choose a civil partnership over marriage.
Should the Civil Partnership break down, the couple may seek a dissolution, rather than a divorce. There is also provision for nullity and separation orders similar to those that apply to marriages. Some couples will wish to enter into a Separation Agreement before their Civil Partnership is dissolved, just as a married couple might choose to do so.
The grounds for dissolution of a civil partnership
The grounds for a dissolution and the Court’s procedures mirror those for divorce although there are some differences; in particular
- Adultery is not a grounds for a dissolution (although the equivalent of it would normally amount to unreasonable behaviour).
- The terms ‘conditional order’ and ‘final order’ are used in place of Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute.
We accordingly refer you to our notes on Divorce - the terminology differs slightly, but the procedure is the same. As with divorce, a petition for dissolution cannot be filed until after the first anniversary of the Civil Partnership.
Similarly, the financial claims that arise on the dissolution of a Civil Partnership closely mirror those that arise on divorce in respect of claims for maintenance, capital and pension orders. Again, we refer you to our notes on Financial Settlements.
For the purposes of Inheritance Act claims civil partners and former civil partners are broadly treated in the same way as spouses and former spouses.