Civil partnerships are a relatively new addition to the landscape of legal relationships. It is only since 2005 that couples in the UK have been able to give notice of the intention to form a civil partnership. In the intervening years this alternative to the option of a full same sex marriage (also now available) has been tested many times – and perhaps never more so than when it comes to dissolving the partnership. Divorce is a well-embedded concept in the UK but what happens if you want to split as a couple if you’re joined by a civil partnership instead?
The legal process
As a civil partnership is a legal arrangement, it also requires a legal process to bring it to an end. One or other of the people in the relationship must file a petition with the court requesting dissolution of the civil partnership in order to commence the process. Dissolution requires that a couple have been in the civil partnership for more than a year – and that there is proof that the union has irretrievably broken down.
Grounds for dissolution
It is the grounds for dissolution that will provide the proof that the union has irretrievably broken down. This could be unreasonable behaviour, such as verbal or physical abuse, or irresponsible financial decisions, as well as desertion i.e. your partner has left you without agreement. A civil partnership can also be dissolved if both parties have lived apart for two years and want the agreement to come to an end after five years of living apart if one party does not consent to the dissolution after two years. As with a divorce, one party will need to start proceedings by being the petitioner.
The issue of adultery
The legislation specifically excludes adultery as a reason for dissolution of a civil partnership. This is because the legal definition of adultery is a married partner having sex with someone of the opposite sex who is not their spouse. As a result, even if there has been cheating it’s not considered adultery unless it is with someone of the opposite sex.
Money and children
If you want a relatively straightforward dissolution then try to sort out the most important issues – which are usually money and children – as soon as you can. Splitting the assets can take time, from deciding who gets what in terms of pensions and investments, to dividing up assets and property. If you have a child then it is really important that you reach agreement as soon as possible on how that child is going to be cared for going forward, so that there is as little disruption as possible to their life.
The importance of a final financial Order
The financial issues that surround a split are often complex. Once these have been worked through it is crucial that a final order is sought so that a line can be drawn under what were previously joint finances. There are many, many examples of couples who have not done this and who have ended up seriously entangled for years as a result. In order to protect both people, and encourage a relatively amicable end, the final order is essential.
What am I entitled to in a divorce settlement?
There is no easy answer to this question, as most divorces have a large number of moving parts. Property and the family home, any business assets, pensions and investments are just a few of the things that will be taken into account. However, where the entitlement to each of these falls depends very much on the roles both have played in the marriage, whether there are children to consider and even the conduct of the parties.
Where do you start?
The best place to start is by taking legal advice on your divorce. This not only provides a degree of separation for the process, which can help to reduce the emotional tensions surrounding it, but will also give you an expert view on what you are entitled to.
How does the process work?
It is worth remembering that a ‘fair’ divorce settlement will not necessarily mean an equal split. However, aiming for a 50/50 division is often the best initial starting point. A solicitor will help you to divide the assets that you have into three main areas:
Income (e.g. salary, income from rentals etc)
Capital assets (e.g. properties, savings, shares)
You can then look at the best way to split these into two. There will be a number of influencing factors to bear in mind when it comes to the split of these assets. Working with a solicitor can ensure that you find the right way to make the divisions and that the values are fair and accurate.
What else can influence the division of assets?
The welfare of children will have a significant impact on how a court would see assets should be divided and so this is important to take into account. For example, assets are unlikely to be split equally if children are to be living with one partner. However, children are not the only factor. For example, if one person has given up a career to stay at home and care for children then they may be entitled to more from the divorce settlement as a result.
Is it better just to go to court?
The short answer is no. Battling over a financial divorce settlement in court can be incredibly costly for everyone involved, not just in terms of money but emotionally too. Whatever the assets you’re unable to agree on, they will most likely be reduced by the cost of arguing over them in court. It’s far better for divorcing couples to find agreement between them over the financial aspects of divorce – this paves the way for a smoother separation, as well as better relations in the future too. Mediation can also help with this process.
If you would like more information or advice about the issues raised in this article, or any aspect of family law please contact our expert legal team on 0208 004 0065, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or using the form below.
The contents of this article is general information only. The information in this article is not legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should obtain independent expert advice from qualified solicitors such as those within our firm.