Civil Partnerships came into operation in the United Kingdom in December 2005. A civil partnership is the means by which a same sex couple can register their relationship. In many ways it is similar to a marriage, carrying many of the same laws, only under a different name. Unfortunately though, just like marriages, Civil Partnerships don’t always work out.
There are three main categories that the ending of a Civil Partnership fall under; a dissolution, a separation order and an annulment. A dissolution is very much like a divorce and means that the couple in question will longer be civil partners. Issues regarding property, finances and any children the couple may have will need to be resolved. A separation is much like a dissolution except that they are still officially civil partners and cannot marry or start a civil partnership with anyone else. This is the equivalent to a judicial separation with a married couple. An annulment can be requested from a judge if either party does not think the civil partnership is valid or legal. Examples of this would be if one of the couple is under 16 years old or in a civil partnership or marriage with someone else.
For one of the parties to request a civil partnership dissolution, the partnership must have been registered for over one year. Just like with a divorce, the person requesting the dissolution must provide evidence to show that the relationship has irretrievably broken down.
The most common reason for a dissolution is that the other party has been unreasonable. Some of the reasons that can be given for unreasonable behaviour are physical or mental abuse, financial irresponsibility, a dependence on drugs or alcohol, or sexual unfaithfulness. The other main reason for a dissolution is if the couple have been apart for a certain amount of time. If they have lived apart for two years and both parties agree, or five years and only one party agrees, it is likely the dissolution will be granted. If one partner has deserted the other for more than two years without a good reason, this is also grounds for a dissolution.
The first step in a civil partnership dissolution is for the person requesting the dissolution to fill out a Petition. A petition is a document detailing the facts of the civil partnership and the reasons why he or she is seeking the dissolution. The other member of the partnership is then able to contest the dissolution. If this happens it goes to court although a trial is rare. The judge must agree that the partnership has irretrievably broken down. The entire dissolution process typically takes between four and nine months.