What to do when your civil partnership comes to an end
Proposing, or being proposed to, is one of the most wonderful and unforgettable moments of a person's life. Especially in the gay community where it can be notoriously difficult to find a partner and settle down, meeting that perfect gay man and building a life together is a very desirable position to be in. When civil partnerships came into effect in December 2005, many gay men legally confirmed their union together and registered their intention to for a civil partnership.
Whilst the general public agree that the Civil Partnership Act was a major breakthrough in gaining equality between the straight and gay population, many state that the honeymoon period amongst gay men is now over.
Although the number of civil partnerships being registered has fallen sharply, recent figures reveal that only 1% of civil partnerships end in divorce. This stands in stark contrast to the average 45% of heterosexual marriages that break down and end in divorce. Early indications, therefore, confirm that unions between same sex couples are much more stable and much less prone to breaking down.
If you've decided to dissolve your civil partnership, this guide provides information and facts on everything you need to know. It is important that you consult your solicitor on your legal rights and responsibilities.
- Your civil partnership is automatically ended if one of the civil partners dies. If both partners are alive and the decision to divorce is made, you will need to ask for permission from a court in the form of a dissolution order, a separation order, or an annulment.
- In order for you to be able to apply for a dissolution order, the civil partnership has to have lasted for at least one year. For this order to be granted, the court requires evidence that the partnership has permanently and irretrievably broken down. This can be due to unreasonable behaviour, adultery, desertion or an agreed dissolution.
- If both of you agree to the dissolution of the civil partnership, you will need to obtain the relevant forms from Her Majesty's Courts Services website. Once you have filled out these forms, the court will make a conditional order of dissolution. Six weeks must pass before this conditional order can be made final.
- If there is disagreement between the partners, legal advice needs to be sought and the courts may be involved. Keep in mind that this can be a costly and lengthy process.
- Just like with a heterosexual marriage, a civil partnership between two gay people can be annulled. If your civil partnership is later found out to have not met the legal conditions for it to have been registered in the first place, the court can end the civil partnership and grant an annulment. The annulment usually needs to be applied for within three years of the civil partnership being registered however there are exceptions.
- The situation becomes more complicated if there are children involved in the union. The law states that everyone with parental responsibility of the child or children needs to be involved in the decision as to who will care for the child on a day-to-day basis. If you enter into a civil partnership and your partner has a child from a previous relationship, you do not automatically have parental responsibility over the child. You will only share the responsibility if you legally adopt the child or become a step-parent. The court will categorically not end the civil partnership if provisions have not been made for the children. It is best for all concerned if an agreement can be reached between the civil partners but this is not always the case. In some instances, it is necessary to involve the courts however court fees are generally quite high and it can be a time-consuming process.
- At the end of a civil partnership, both partners are legally required to financially support one another (unless a pre-registration agreement was drawn up at the start). You must seek legal support as to how the financial support will be allocated and how any property will be divided. If your name does not appear on the mortgage of an owned property but your partner's does, you will need to legally protect your right to stay in the property by notifying the District Land Registry or the Land Charges Department. This will safeguard your rights and prevent your partner from selling the property without your knowledge.
In an ideal world, civil partnerships are a happy, joyous union of two same sex partners that wish to confirm their bond and secure their future together. However, we all know that many good things do come to an end. The most important facet of any divorce or dissolution is to know your rights and legally safeguarding any financial assets you may possess. Otherwise you may find yourself in a rather sticky situation.