Families and divorce

Dissolving a civil partnership

dissolving a civil partnership couple facing away from each other

If you want to end a civil partnership, you need to apply to the court for a ‘dissolution order’, by confirming that your partnership has irretrievably broken down and agree with your partner how to resolve practical and financial issues.

How to end a civil partnership

The process used to end a civil partnership is called a ‘dissolution’.  The first step is applying for, and completing, a dissolution application form.

Dissolving a civil partnership can be straightforward when both partners are on the same page. However, if you disagree over practical issues (childcare, finances and property) then the process can be longer and more complex. It may take longer to end the partnership if you disagree about how to handle these issues.

When can I apply to end a civil partnership?

Your civil partnership must have lasted for at least a year before you can apply to dissolve it. To end a civil partnership in England and Wales, one (or both) of you must live in England or Wales (or be domiciled here -i.e. consider their permanent home to be here). It does not matter in which country you entered into the partnership.

What are the grounds for ending a civil partnership?

You will need to confirm on the application that the relationship has broken down irretrievably. Before 6 April 2022 a person seeking dissolution had to prove that the partnership had broken down by citing reasons (known as "facts") of unreasonable behaviour, adultery, two  years' separation (with agreement of the partner), five years' separation or desertion. However this no longer necessary.  You now only have to confirm that the partnership has broken down irretrievably.

To start the dissolution proceedings, you will need to complete an application form which can be filed at court electronically.  This application can be made by one partner or by both partners as a joint application. 

The application can be completed on paper or online and in either case, the court fee for processing the application is £563.  You will need to provide your original partnership certificate in the case of an application on paper, or an image of it, if you're applying online.

What happens after I send the application to the court?

The court will process your application.  If you've made a sole application, the court will send your civil partner (or their solocitor) a copy of the application and a form to acknowledge receipt of the documentation. (There are now limited grounds upon which your partner can dispute the application but it is technically possible to do so).

If you've made a joint application with your partner, the court will send both parties a notice of proceedings.

20 weeks after the application was first issued, you (or you and your partner together) can apply for a conditional order, which is the first stage dissolution order.  In that application you confirm that the details given in the original application are corret and you wish the proceedings to proceed.

Assuming the application is correct, the court will make a conditional order.  Six weeks after the conditional order is made, an application can be made for the final dissolution order which ends the civil partnership.  In the case of a sole application, the applicant must give the other party ('the respondent') 14 days' notice of their intention to apply.

How long does it take to end a civil partnership?

The application for a conditional order (the first stage) cannot be made less than 20 weeks from the date the original application was made; and then the application for a final order cannot be made less than 6 weeks from the date of the conditional order.  However there are other circumstances that are likely to have an impact on how long it takes to obtain a final order.

Starting the process with a joint application will set the process off to the most conciliatory start. But time will need to be built in for completeing and signing documentation on a joint basis.

There may be delays in the court processing the applications.  This is beyond the control of the parties or any solicitors involved.

Importantly, it is often sensible to wait until after final financial agreement has been made (and approved by the court) before dissolving the civil partnership, because of financial rights that might be lost on dissolution. And it is in some cases reaching a financial agreement (or an agreement in relation to children of the partnership) which can take longer than the dissolution itself.  However it is crucial that the appropriate time is taken for advice and agreement on finances, even if that holds up your final order.

Can I separate from my civil partner without getting a dissolution?

Yes. If you want to separate from your civil partner, but don’t want to dissolve the civil partnership (or it’s been less than a year since it was registered).  Any agreement reached regarding your finances will not be fully binding and enforceable unles you have a final dissolution order and the agreement has been approved by the court.

What are my financial rights after ending a civil partnership?

Separating civil partners have the same financial rights as divorcing couples. They have a right to claim maintenance, lump-sum payments, property transfer or sale and pension sharing or attachment orders. 

Dissolve a civil partnership – expert family law solicitors

Ending a relationship is tough, regardless of the circumstances. Whether the breakup was amicable or difficult, it pays to have someone on your side.

At Tees, a dedicated solicitor will explain your rights and the steps you need to take. We’ll support you at every step and protect your interests. If you need us to, we can guide you through the process of dealing with your former partner. 

Mediation to dissolve a civil partnership

You can use a mediation process to sort out disagreements and reach decisions about important things like money, property and childcare. Mediation is normally a faster and less stressful alternative to a drawn-out court process. It can be a cheaper option and helps both partners feel in control of the situation.

An independent, trained mediator will help both parties understand the issues and come to a workable agreement. Tees has specialist mediators on hand to advise you through a mediation, and we can ensure a mediated agreement becomes legally binding. 

Call our specialist solicitors on 0808 231 1320


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Chat to the Author, Helen Midgley

Senior Associate - Families and Divorce, Bishop's Stortford office

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Helen Midgley, family law specialist in Bishops Stortford
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