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When the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force on 5th December 2005, same-sex couples, 16 years and over could obtain legal recognition of their relationship for the first time. And since 31st December 2019, civil partnerships have also been open to opposite-sex couples.
Civil partnerships allow unmarried couples to access the same tax, inheritance, and pension rights and entitlements as married couples.
Subsequently, the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 went further, allowing same-sex couples to marry, with the first marriages taking place on 29th March 2014. Understandably, the introduction of same-sex marriage saw the number of civil partnerships plummet, recovering slightly with the change in the law for opposite-sex couples in 2019.
It’s a sad fact, but a significant proportion of relationships come to an end. Indeed, figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that 42% of same-sex marriages end in divorce. Time is likely to reveal a similar rate of relationship breakdown for same-sex marriages and civil partnerships.
The ONS figures also show that the average length of a marriage for opposite-sex couples is a fraction under 12 years. And the average age for divorce is around 44 for women and 46 for men.
Ending a civil partnership
Necessarily, the introduction of civil partnerships came hand-in-hand with the mechanism required to end the relationship formally.
Since the introduction of no-fault divorce on 6th April 2022, the process for ending a civil partnership (called a dissolution) is essentially the same as for marriage. One or both partners must apply to the court stating that the relationship has broken down irretrievably. It’s not possible to contest a civil partnership dissolution unless there’s an argument based on jurisdiction. And as with divorce, couples must wait at least a year following the civil partnership ceremony for a dissolution.
The final order dissolving a civil partnership does not resolve any financial issues. Instead, a separate financial application to the court is necessary. If both parties agree on the division of finances, one or both of you can apply to the court for a financial order. However, we strongly recommend taking independent legal advice before doing so.
Where agreement is not possible, the court must decide the terms of a contested financial order after hearing evidence.
In most cases, we recommend resolving financial matters alongside your civil partnership dissolution. And depending on your circumstances, we may recommend delaying the dissolution application pending the conclusion of money matters.
Discover more about pre- and post civil partnership agreements.
When a relationship breaks down, emotions can run high. Yet there are inevitably important decisions to be made regarding the future. Talking face-to-face may be the quickest and most inexpensive way to resolve any issues. However, it’s understandable that many find this a very daunting prospect. That is where our Family Mediation Service can help.
If your civil partnership is not legally valid, you can ask the court to annul it like marriage. However, unlike marriage, non-consummation is not grounds for annulling a civil partnership.
Unlike marriage, there is no corresponding offence of bigamy for civil partnerships. However, you cannot register as a civil partner if you are already married or already in a civil partnership, and it’s an offence to provide false information.