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’, prove that your relationship 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 petition form from the court.

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 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. It does not matter in which country you entered into the partnership.

Grounds for ending a civil partnership

The next stage is to fill out an application form for a conditional order. You need to give a reason why you want to end the partnership.

To end a civil partnership, you need to prove that the relationship has broken down irretrievably. You must prove this through one or more of the following facts:

Unreasonable behaviour

If your partner’s behaviour makes you feel that you can no longer live with them this can be reason to end the partnership. Unreasonable behaviour is the most common reason used to end a partnership. Examples of unreasonable behaviour include:

  • Physical or mental cruelty
  • Exerting financial control or being irresponsible with money
  • Being sexually unfaithful. 

Two years’ separation 

If you have been separated (living apart) from your partner for two years or more this can be reason to end the partnership, but only if you have your partner’s consent and the separation has been continuous. It is possible to live separately but within the same house. 

Five years’ separation 

Similarly, if you have been living apart from your partner for five years or more, this can be reason to end the partnership. If this is the case, you don’t need your partner’s consent to use this as a reason but the separation needs to have been continuous.


Desertion is when your partner leaves you without your agreement, without a good reason and with the intention of ending the relationship. Your partner must have been gone for a total period of two years.  You don’t need your partner’s consent to use this as a reason to end the civil partnership.

How long does it take to end a civil partnership?

The amount of time it takes to end a civil partnership depends very much on whether both partners agree, and their particular circumstances. If your partner agrees to the dissolution, the court will review the papers and make a conditional order of dissolution. The dissolution will be made final 43 days from the date of the conditional order.

In cases where your partner disagrees, or there are more complex issues to resolve (for example, if you need to divide financial assets or properties), it may take longer to reach an agreement and obtain the final dissolution 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), then you can apply to the court for a legal separation. If you get a separation order, you can apply for a dissolution later. You’ll be able to use the same evidence that you used to obtain the separation order.

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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But we can help you wherever you are in England and Wales.

Chat to the Author, Helen Midgley

Senior Associate, Bishop's Stortford office

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Helen Midgley, family law specialist in Bishops Stortford
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