In This Post

In this post I'll guide you through everything you need to know when applying for a civil partnership dissolution, including:

  • What is the difference between a divorce and a dissolution?
  • What are the reasons you can apply for a civil partnership dissolution?
  • How do you apply and how long will it take?
  • And, some important tips before applying

So, read on to learn more...

What Is A Civil Partnership In The UK?

A civil partnership is a legally recognised relationship between two people. It gives them rights and responsibilities similar to those of married couples, including pensions and inheritance rights. The process of registering a civil partnership is much like that of getting married in terms of the paperwork involved but without any religious or spiritual element - it simply confirms the legal status of the relationship.

Civil partnerships were originally introduced in 2004 with a single goal in mind: to allow same sex couples to legally register their relationship. However, in 2018 civil partnerships were expanded to include heterosexual couples as well.

And, just as with a marriage, civil partnerships can breakdown and come to a conclusion. You can apply for a ‘dissolution’ to end your relationship legally (which is the equivalent of a divorce).

Civil Partnership Dissolution Infographic

Top Tip:

Both divorce and dissolution are a means to end a legally binding relationship, but the terminology is different. Divorce is limited to legally married couples, whereas dissolution is only for civil partners.

In short, you can't get a divorce if you're in a civil partnership, and you can't dissolve a marriage.

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Divorce Or Dissolution: What's The Difference?

Similar to marriage and divorce, civil partnership dissolution also takes place through the courts.

One important thing to remember is that you can only apply for a dissolution after a year of your civil partnership. If you've been in the partnership less than a year, you will either need to wait, or apply for <bloglink>separation<bloglink> instead.

A civil partnership grants the same rights as a married couples enjoy in terms of tax advantages, pensions, inheritance etc.

Similarly, dissolving a civil partnership comes with the same rights as a spouse who divorces, in terms of dividing the family finances, child custody rights etc.

The rights are the same- just the terminology is different.

Note that recent changes in the law have streamlined the divorce and dissolution process.

  1. Before 6th April 2022 you had to prove a reason for your dissolution. However, this is no longer the case.
  2. All you have to do now is give a statement (in practical words, click a box) stating that the partnership has ‘irretrievably broken down.’

We'll briefly look at the old grounds for dissolving a civil partnership, as many couples still think factors such as adultery are relevant to their dissolution (but they no longer are).  

Grounds For Dissolution Of Civil Partnerships

Since the UK law introduced <bloglink>'No-Fault Divorce'<bloglink> you are no longer required to establish a basis or facts for ending a civil partnership or marriage. Now, the law gives only one reason for a civil partnership dissolution which is that your civil partnership ‘has irretrievably broken down .’  This means the civil partnership has ended permanently and there is no possibility to fix it.

Previously, you needed to prove one of these 4 ‘facts':

  • Unreasonable behaviour.
  • 2 years' separation (by consent).
  • 5 years' separation (without consent).
  • Desertion.

Keep in mind, it is no longer necessary to state why the civil partnership has broken down before the court. And so <bloglink>factors<bloglink> such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour are largely irrelevant. If there has been any domestic abuse or other forms of safety issue, the court will want to know about them in other cases, such as child custody proceedings, but it will not affect the process of concluding a civil partnership.

How To Prepare To Dissolve A Civil Partnership

You can apply for a dissolution of civil partnership online <bloglink>here.<bloglink>

If you do not wish to apply online, you may do so on paper using <bloglink>Form D8.<bloglink>

While it is perfectly possible to apply for dissolution yourself, most people choose to either hire a solicitor or use an online divorce / dissolution service to help them through the process.

Note that sections 8 and 9 of the application form ask whether you also want a financial order as part of your dissolution. This is something that often confuses couples. The dissolution process merely ends your partnership- it does nothing to divide the family finances between you. For that, you need to tick 'yes' and ask for a financial order as well.

To begin the financial claim, you must submit a separate application for a financial order, which determines your <bloglink>divorce / dissolution settlement<bloglink>.

A piggy bank
In addition to your dissolution, you may need a financial order to decide your monetary settlement.

Again, while you might save some money by applying for a dissolution online yourself,  seeking help from a qualified family law office will make sure that the dissolution application and related paperwork are correctly completed and no problems arise later down the line.

The next thing you need to decide is whether to make a joint or sole application.

Let’s take a look at both...

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Civil Partner Dissolution Process - Joint Applications

Making a joint application means that you and your partner agree to dissolve your civil partnership mutually. In this process, one of you is Applicant 1 and the other is Applicant 2. Even though it does not matter which one of you is applicant 1 or 2, applicant 1 has to complete most of the form. Applicant 2 also has to fill in some of the details, and sign the statement of truth together with applicant 1 at the end of the form.

Providing Your Civil Partnership Certificate

One important thing to remember before starting the process of dissolving your civil partnership is that you are required to provide the court with a certified copy of your civil partnership certificate with your application.

If you are applying online through the website, guidance on how to upload your certificate is provided. If you are sending your application by post, then you can send the certificate along with the form D8.

In case you do not have your original certificate, you can apply for a copy from the Registry Office in the district where you originally entered into a civil partnership. However, you can also get a copy from the <bloglink>General Register Office.<bloglink>

Furthermore, if your certificate is in a different language, you are required to get it translated. You must also have its translation certified by a notary public, to show that it is a true and accurate translation.

Civil Partner Dissolution Process - Sole Applications

If you can't agree or are not on speaking terms, then one of you will have to make a sole application. The person applying is called the applicant, and their partner is called the respondent. In this case, if you are the applicant you are required to fill in the application form entirely by yourself (with or without help from your lawyer).

Form D8
You can either apply online, or by post using the Form D8.

If you are wondering how you notify your partner know about the dissolution application- don’t worry, the court has a formal process for this.

When you fill in the application, it will ask you to provide the your partner's usual email address and postal address. The court will use these contact details to send the application to the respondent - this is called service.

Consequently, the court will send an email to the respondent containing the application, notification of proceedings, and a form to acknowledge service. The court will also notify them by post.

It is of course possible that you don't know your partner’s email address or postal address. If this is the case then there are alternative ways to let the them know about the application:

  • If you do not know the respondent’s email address, you can mention that on the application. The court will serve the respondent through postal address only.
  • If you do not know the respondent’s postal address, but you know the email address, then you have to make a separate application. In this case, you have to ask the court for permission to serve by email only.

If you do not know the respondent’s email or postal address, then you must either 1) apply to dispense with service, or 2) apply for permission to serve the respondent in another way (eg. by text message or other means). These are complex options, and I strongly advise you to seek legal advice before embarking on alternative forms of service.

When Do You Have To Serve The Respondent Yourself?

In most cases, the respondent is served by the court. But there are times when the court cannot complete service for you.

For example:

  • The respondent lives outside of England and Wales.
  • The court has tried to serve the respondent, but has been unable to do so.
  • Or, you choose to serve the respondent yourself while filing the form (I would recommend against this unless there is a specific reason to do so).

This means you must make sure that the respondent receives the application, notice of proceedings, and acknowledgement of service form, rather than relying on the court to do it for you.

The best way to do this is by paying for a private <bloglink>process server<bloglink> to do it for you (your solicitor can advise you on this process).

Note: If you are in charge of serving the respondent, you must do so within 28 days after the application's issuance. If there are strong reasons why you cannot serve the them within this time frame, you may request an extension. You must explain to the court why you have not been able to serve the respondent and show that you have done everything possible to serve them within the normal timeframe.

How Do You Respond To A Civil Partnership Dissolution Application?

If you are the respondent to a sole application, then you are required to return an <bloglink>acknowledgement of service<bloglink> once you receive the dissolution application.

You do this using the Acknowledgement of Service Form, which will be included with the application notice. You must send it back to the court within 14 days.

Acknowledgment of service
The acknowledgment of service must be returned within 14 days.

At present, you cannot dispute the dissolution on the basis that you do not agree that the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down.

In short, if your partner thinks the relationship is over (but you disagree) there is nothing you can do to stop the dissolution. The courts will not force someone to remain in a relationship they no longer want to be part of, no matter how much the other party objects.

However, there are some limited circumstances in which you might be able to challenge the dissolution.

It is only possible to dispute a dissolution for one of the following reasons:

  • The court does not have jurisdiction.
  • The civil partnership itself was never legally valid.
  • The civil partnership has already legally concluded.

If you wish to contest the dissolution on any of these grounds, you must submit a <bloglink>D8B form<bloglink> called the answer within 21 days from the date of filing the acknowledgement of service.

What Happens After You Have Applied To End Your Civil Partnership?

After service is completed, the applicant needs to apply for a conditional order. But before you apply for it, there is a 20 week cooling off period from the issue date of the application. This time is given for reflection - if you are sure you definitely still want a dissolution after 20 weeks have passed, your application can proceed to the conditional order stage.

Applying For A Conditional Order

Using <bloglink>form D84,<bloglink> you (or your solicitor) can apply for the conditional order.

The judge will decide whether you are entitled to a dissolve the civil partnership based on the facts you provide to the court. If the dissolution is uncontested, you are not required to appear in court for a hearing. The judge just looks at the documentation.

If the judge believes you are entitled to dissolution, the court will issue you a Certificate of Entitlement to Conditional Order. This specifies the day and hour when your conditional order is issued in court. You are not required to attend court on this day. Only if there is a dispute about the court's jurisdiction or the legal validity of the civil partnership, will you need to attend court.

When the court issues a conditional order, it indicates that it believes the application is sufficient to grant dissolution. The civil partnership hasn't actually concluded, though. For that your need to make the application for a Final Order...

Applying For A Final Order

The last step of civil partnership dissolution is applying for a Final Order using <bloglink>form D36.<bloglink> You can apply for the final order six weeks and one day after the date of the conditional order.

A clock on the wall
You can apply for the Final Order a minimum of 6 weeks and 1 day after the Conditional Order was granted.

The final order is the formal dissolution order issued by the court that terminates the civil partnership.

If it is more than a year after the date of the conditional order, the court will request further information from the applicant, which you must put on the form.

If, for some reason, the applicant does not apply for the final order, the respondent themselves can apply three months after the applicant's six-week deadline has expired.

How Long Does It Take To Get End A Civil Partnership?

You can see from the process above that the minimum amount of time it takes to dissolve a civil partnership is 26 weeks. More realistically, if everything is agreed upon and both parties immediately complete and return the documentation, the court will generally handle the dissolution from start to finish in 7-9 months. 

However, if there are disputes around how to divide your finances, or any child custody arrangements, this can complicate matters and significantly extend the timeline.

How Much Does It Cost To Dissolve A Civil Partnership?

The court fee is £593 as of 1st March 2022. Court fees change from time to time, so check with your local court or go <bloglink>here.<bloglink> In addition, most couples use a solicitor or online divorce/ dissolution service to help them, which comes at an additional <bloglink>cost,<bloglink> particularly if there are other matters such as applications for <bloglink>ancillary relief<bloglink>.


Is dissolution the same as divorce?

Strictly speaking, no. Dissolution of a civil partnership is not the same as divorce. While they follow exactly the same process, they are legally distinct and technically not the same thing. Dissolution is the term used when a civil partnership is concluded, while divorce is the ending of a marriage. In practical terms, however, there is no real difference for couples going through the process.

What if you make a joint application and one of you stops cooperating?

A joint application may become a single application later in the procedure, for example, if your civil partner refuses to sign documentation or take other necessary steps to continue the dissolution.

Can a sole application be turned into a joint application?

No. If one civil partner makes a sole application then it will remain a sole application.

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Neil Johnstone is a barrister and the founder of Neil is a barrister with an interest in all forms of civil and family law, and has appeared at all Court levels, up to and including the Court of Appeal.

Neil started this site in response to a common problem he noticed: Clients were unable to pursue deserving cases due to a lack of up-front funds. Neil knew that better access to No-Win-No-Fee representation and legal funding could help bridge the gap, and so founded; a unique comparison site connecting clients, law firms, and specialist funders.

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