Civil Partnerships and Disputes

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force on 5 December 2005. The purpose of the Act is to enable same-sex couples to obtain legal recognition of their relationship by registration.

Same-sex couples acquire many of the legal rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples. However, the Act does not purport to create same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, in terms of the conditions dissolving a civil partnership and the legal consequences flowing from it, the Act adopts a model based closely on marriage.

A civil partnership may be dissolved by making an application for a Dissolution Order. No application for a Dissolution Order may be made before the end of the period of one year from registration.

An application for a Dissolution Order may be made by either party on the grounds that the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably. One or more of the following four facts must be established to prove this:-

  • That a civil partner has behaved in such a way that the other cannot reasonably be expected to live with them.
  • The civil partners have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the making of the application and both partners consent to the dissolution.
  • The partners have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the making of the application.
  • A civil partner has deserted the other partner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the making of the application.

Unlike divorce proceedings, adultery is not included as a separate fact. However, infidelity, which leads to the breakdown, may be regarded as unreasonable behaviour.

The Act includes provision for financial relief in relation to money, property or pensions which corresponds with that of married couples who divorce.

Where there are children involved, the Court is required to consider whether it should exercise any of its powers under the Children Act 1989. This provision is designed to safeguard the welfare of any children and provide for their upbringing.

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