Dissolution of Civil Partnerships

Adult couple

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 (which came into force in December 2005) introduced a legally recognised relationship for same sex couples – that of “civil partnership”. If the civil partnership is registered, then, broadly speaking, the parties to the civil partnership have the same rights as married couples, specifically in relation to property matters on divorce and succession/inheritance rights.

Same sex marriage was legalised in Scotland in 2014 so same sex couples now have a choice of three legally recognised relationships – cohabitation, civil partnership or marriage.

The legal relationship created by individuals entering into a civil partnership can be brought to an end by way of the dissolution process. Dissolution can only be achieved by way of an application to the appropriate Court which will usually be the Sheriff Court for the area in which parties are ordinarily resident.

If the financial and other matters can be agreed, then these can be recorded in a Minute of Agreement. Any application to the Court thereafter would be in respect of dissolution only.

If, however, the financial and other matters cannot be agreed then the disputed issues can be considered as part of the dissolution proceedings. The Court will, in the absence of agreement, determine the disputed issues. This is a more expensive way of dealing with matters.

Dissolution can be applied for on one of two grounds.

The first ground is that the partnership has broken down irretrievably. This can be established in three different circumstances.

  • Firstly, separation from your partner for one year and your partner is prepared to consent to the dissolution.
  • Secondly, you have been separated from your partner for two years.
  • Thirdly, you are able to establish and corroborate that your partner’s behaviour is such that you cannot reasonably be expected to continue to reside with them. This provides an immediate basis for dissolution and an application could be submitted without waiting for one or two years.

Adultery is still available as a ground for divorce for married couples but is not available to civil partners under the present legislation.

The other ground for applying for dissolution is where an interim gender recognition certificate has been issued to one of the parties.

The nature of the application to the Court depends on a number of circumstances. If there are no children of the civil partnership under 16 years of age and all the financial and other matters are agreed, then an application based on separation for one or two years can be made by way of the simplified procedure. In other cases, an application will require to be made under the ordinary procedure and you will need to establish the grounds for dissolution as set out above.

In relation to financial matters, civil partners are, broadly speaking, entitled to the same financial settlement as heterosexual married couples are on divorce.

This may be significant in terms of the identification and valuation of the partnership/matrimonial property.

It is now possible to convert a civil partnership into a same sex marriage. This is achieved either through a full marriage ceremony or by following an administrative process via your legal registry office.

If you decide to convert your civil partnership to a same sex marriage one consequence is that, from a legal point of view, the date of marriage will be treated as the date upon which the original civil partnership was registered. This is significant in terms of identification and valuation of the civil property.

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