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Civil Partnership Dissolution FAQs

The law relating to Civil Partnership Dissolution is due to change in April 2022.  It may be easier to obtain a dissolution after that date.  Please contact us for advice about this.

Can I get my civil partnership dissolved by the Court? 

  • You are entitled to dissolution if your civil partnership has “irretrievably broken down”. This is the only ground upon which dissolution can be obtained in English law.
  • You can show that your civil partnership has irretrievably broken down by proving one of the following four facts:
    1. that your partner has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him/her
    2. that your partner has deserted you for a continuous period of at least two years
    3. that you and your partner have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years and your partner consents to dissolution
    4. that you and your partner have lived apart for a continuous period of five years.


What constitutes “unreasonable behaviour”?

Fact (1) above is often referred to as “unreasonable behaviour”.  The behaviour of your partner does not have to be directed at you.  For example, if they have committed a serious criminal offence this could be regarded as unreasonable behaviour.

Unreasonable behaviour can include low-level behaviour over a period of time.  What constitutes unreasonable behaviour will vary depending on the circumstances of your relationship.

How do I go about getting my civil partnership dissolved?

 The Court grants dissolutions.  Filing a petition at Court starts the process.

  • There is a lot of complicated law connected to civil partnership dissolution, so it is easy to make mistakes when drafting a petition unless you know exactly what you are doing.

My partner has applied to the Court for dissolution of our civil partnership.  What should I do?

 When you receive a petition from the Court it should be accompanied by an acknowledgement of service form.  For assistance in completing this form and advice as to any issues arising from the dissolution proceedings, you should contact us as soon as possible.

I married or entered into a civil partnership abroad.  Can the English Court grant me dissolution?

 Other countries’ equivalents of a civil partnership are recognised in England and Wales.

Conversely, other countries may not recognise English civil partnerships, even if they have similar arrangements in place. For example, countries that recognise same-sex marriage may not recognise civil partnerships on the basis that they fall short of marriage.

Laws about registration of same-sex relationships and marriage vary. This makes it all the more important to obtain legal advice where there might be any such issues.

It is not the place of the marriage or civil partnership that determines which country’s Courts can grant divorce or dissolution.  Broadly speaking, you will be able to issue a petition in England or Wales if either you or your partner lives in England or Wales or has sufficient ties to this jurisdiction.  Determining whether this is the case may require some thought, possibly even asking the court to make a ruling.

  • Scotland and Northern Ireland count as “abroad” for these purposes as they have legal systems separate from that of England and Wales.


My partner lives abroad.  Will this make a difference to my dissolution?

If you and your partner live in different countries or have substantial links with more than one country, it is possible that more than one country’s Courts can grant dissolution.  If so, you should contact us as a matter of urgency.

When there is a dispute as to which country’s Courts have jurisdiction, it is usually the Court in which the petition was first issued that will take the dissolution forward and will have jurisdiction relating to financial and property issues.  The law relating to dividing assets and finances on dissolution varies from country to country, so it may be necessary to issue your petition swiftly.

I am worried that my partner might take offence if I try to dissolve our civil partnership.  Is there anything that can be done to prevent this?

  •  If you are concerned that your partner will threaten or harm you, you should speak to us about obtaining a Court order for your protection.
  • It is sometimes the case that partners take offence if they think a petition is unfair to them. It is usually possible to agree the wording of a petition so that the dissolution can take place without offence being given.  If allegations of unreasonable behaviour are made it is open to the person receiving the petition (the Respondent) to deny the allegations but not defend the dissolution.
  • Very few dissolution cases are defended. If your partner might defend your petition you should discuss this with us so we can advise you and explore whether a mutually acceptable way forward can be agreed.
  • Sometimes partners try to frustrate dissolutions by refusing to acknowledge service of the petition. This rarely succeeds. Again, we can advise as to your options.
  • If you are seeking a dissolution based on two years separation you will need your partner’s consent. It is best for us to find out whether they are prepared to give this consent before issuing a petition.

We both want dissolution.  Can I come in to see you with my partner?

You cannot apply for dissolution together.   A firm of solicitors is not allowed to act for both parties in Court proceedings even if you both agree on your dissolution and all connected issues.

Will I have to pay my Civil Partner’s legal costs when he or she petitions for dissolution?

 A Petitioner for dissolution asserting unreasonable behaviour or desertion can seek a Court order that the Respondent pays his or her legal costs.  Often, if the dissolution is agreed the civil partners also agree that neither shall pay towards the other’s costs or that all or some of the costs shall be shared.  This does not affect costs relating to financial matters, which are dealt with separately.

Will we have to go to Court to decide which of us our children will live with?

  •  The law places great importance on parents reaching agreement regarding arrangements for children. Most parents are able to reach such agreement.
  • We support the Parenting After Parting initiative from Resolution. This aims to help separating parents to put their children’s interests first.  You should speak to us about how the Parenting After Parting initiative can help you and your children.
  • If you and your partner cannot agree regarding arrangements for children it is possible to make an application to the Court for orders under the Children Act 1989. Such an application will be in separate proceedings from your dissolution.

Will I have to go to Court about the division of assets and finances between my partner and me?

  • Only the Court can dismiss any future claims that either you or your partner may have against each other because of your Civil partnership.
  • Most separating couples reach agreement regarding division of assets and finances. An agreement can be turned into a “consent order” (a Court order the contents of which are agreed between you and your partner).  You do not have to attend Court for a consent order to be made.
  • We can help you reach an agreement. This can be a difficult process as often finances that are enough for two people living together, whether with or without children, are stretched thinly when they separate. We are committed to the Resolution Code of Practice, which requires us to adopt a constructive and non-confrontational approach in family law matters.
  • If it is not possible to negotiate an agreement regarding your assets and finances, an application to the Court may be the only way of resolving disputes. We can assist you and represent you at Court.
  • Whichever way you and your partner sort out financial matters, you will both have to give each other full and frank disclosure of all information relating to your finances. This is so that negotiations can take place and decisions be made on an informed basis.  You have to know what assets are available before you can consider how to divide them.

 I don’t want to dissolve my civil partnership right now but I do want to sort out finances without any delay.  Can this be done?

  • You can sort out finances when you separate and dissolve your civil partnership at a later date. To do this, we recommend negotiating a separation deed.  This can include provisions for either you or your civil partner to initiate dissolution proceedings after two years of separation.
  • If you are negotiating a separation deed, it is important that both you and your civil partner have legal advice and enter into the agreement freely. A separation agreement has to be in a formal document signed as a deed without any pressure being exerted on one spouse by another, with each civil partner at least having the opportunity to take legal advice, and you must both give each other full and frank disclosure of your financial positions. If any of these elements are missed out, the agreement between you and your civil partner may be open to challenge at Court.

My partner forced me into an unfair separation agreement.  Can you help me overturn it? 

  • If any of the factors described in the answer to the previous question are missing, especially if you were put under pressure to enter into a separation agreement, or the agreement is so unfair that no Court would ever make an order in those terms, you may be able to challenge the agreement.
  • Such situations will vary significantly from case to case. It is therefore very important that you obtain advice from us regarding your position and rights without delay.

How long will dissolving my civil partnership take? 

  • Most cases take six to nine months from the date on which the petition was sent to the Court. The exact length of time will depend on how quickly both you and your partner deal with the dissolution.
  • If there are proceedings at Court or negotiations relating to finances these may take longer. Again, this depends on both you and your partner.  It also depends on the availability of time and Judges at Court.  Financial proceedings can take a year to eighteen months or longer.
  • We strongly recommend that you do not make any arrangements for a new civil partnership or marriage before your dissolution is finalized.

How much will my dissolution cost?

  • This is impossible to say with any certainty. As with the timescale, a lot depends on the attitude that your partner takes to the proceedings and any negotiations.
  • As general guidance only, our current standard hourly rate for family law services is £240 per hour plus VAT. This may be higher if there are any special aspects to your case, such as complicated issues arising due to the nature of your finances or any other matters.
  • “Standalone” dissolution with no work required in relation to family finances or arrangements for children normally takes around three to six hours of chargeable time. There are also Court fees to pay, which currently stand at £550 for issuing a petition.
  • We may be able to offer fixed-fee arrangements for the dissolution so long as it follows the standard undefended procedure for dissolution and no problems arise. 

What is Resolution?

  • Resolution (formerly known as the Solicitors Family Law Association) is an organisation of specialist family law solicitors who commit themselves to taking a constructive, non-confrontational approach in family law matters.
  • Resolution supports the development of its members through its national and regional training programmes, its publications and good practice guides and through its accreditation scheme.
  • All Resolution members follow a Code of Practice. The Code promotes an approach to family law that is sensitive, constructive, cost-effective and most likely to result in an agreement.  The Code is widely recognised and has been adopted by the Law Society as recommended good practice for all family solicitors.  You can find it at www.resolution.org.uk.
Greg Randall

by Greg Randall – a member of Resolution.

You can contact Greg at:

Bennett Welch Solicitors
Bank Chambers
Westow Hill
Upper Norwood
London  SE19 1TY

Tel: 0208 670 6141

E: [email protected]


These FAQs are general guidance as to the law only and are not intended to replace the advice given by a fully instructed specialist solicitor.  Bennett Welch accepts no liability arising as a consequence of reliance on these notes as a substitute for such advice from us.

Last reviewed and updated

November 2021

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