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Ending a Civil Partnership - Divorce and Dissolution

A Civil partnership is a legally registered same sex relationship. In circumstances where the parties to the partnership wish to bring it to an end legal steps must be taken to achieve this.

The options available to civil partners are similar to those open to married couples but with a few exceptions and slightly different terminology. So, providing civil partners have been in a legally registered relationship for a period in excess of 12 months they can chose to:

  • Apply for a dissolution order. This is similar to divorce with the exception that the grounds available, this means the reasons for divorce, exclude adultery (except if committed with opposite sex partner);
  • Apply for a separation order. Similar to the principal of judicial separation and can be sought where parties have been legally registered for less than 12 months;
  • Apply for annulment. Unlike the dissolution and separation options there is a time limit for application of  3 years from registration of the partnership, although there can be some exceptions.

Annulment is the least common of these options as the rules are strict. In essence the party seeking to annul is asking the court to decide that either the civil partnership never existed, known as a void partnership, or the registration was legal at the time but is no longer valid, known as a voidable partnership. Whether the annulment is to be based on a void or voidable relationship depends upon the circumstances of the case.

As an example a void partnership, or one that never existed in law, may be one where a party is under 16 years of age or 18 years of age and without parental consent. Alternatively one party may already be the civil partner or lawful spouse of another person. These details would not have been known to the other party at the time of their union and so they may rely upon them to seek annulment.

A voidable partnership, or one that it is considered no longer legal, would pivot around an application based on facts such as lack of consent. 

Application would be by means of petition to the court and would attract a fee. Evidence in support would be necessary, at first instance by means of citing the particulars but further statements or documents to support assertions may be requested.

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