Q: I rushed into a civil ceremony with my partner after the change in law in 2005, but we have now decided to split up. I am unsure how to pursue a legal dissolution, are the legal obligations the same as a divorce for heterosexual couples?
The procedure for obtaining a dissolution of a Civil Partnership is nearly identical to the procedure for a divorce. Dissolution proceedings cannot be brought within the first year of the civil partnership. After this time, in order to obtain a legal dissolution you need to show that the relationship has broken down irretrievably. There are four grounds for proving irretrievable breakdown: Unreasonable behaviour; two years separation ( the petitioner and the respondent have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately before the petition is issued and the respondent consents to a dissolution order being made), five years separation (the petitioner and the respondent have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 5 years immediately before the petition is issued (the respondent’s consent is not required) or Desertion.
However, unlike divorce proceedings it is not possible for a civil partnership to be dissolved on the grounds of adultery. However, sexual infidelity may be one of the factors used to support an unreasonable behaviour Petition.
Once one of the four grounds has been established the legal proceedings are then very similar to those in a divorce from the initial Dissolution Petition to when the Final Order is issued and the civil partnership is legally dissolved.
As well as the dissolution, there may well be other matters to deal with such as financial issues or matters relating to any children of the family and it is sensible to consult a solicitor at an early stage to obtain some advice, even if it seems that everything is going to be amicable.
Karen Witter, partner at Davis Blank Furniss – www.dbf-law.co.uk or 0161 832 3304.