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The Civil Partnership Act came into force on 5th December 2005. It entitles same sex couples to register their relationship formally as a civil partnership. The effect of entering into a such a partnership is to place same sex couples in virtually the same position as married couples.
The only ground for dissolving a civil partnership is to prove irretrievable breakdown. To satisfy the court of the breakdown, you must prove one of the four facts set out by law: your partner’s unreasonable behaviour, that you have been separated for over two years, that you have been separated for over five years, or that your partner has deserted you.
The majority of people who wish to dissolve their civil partnership will also need to consider how to divide the family assets. Before dealing with this issue, both partners should provide full and frank financial disclosure regarding their respective incomes, capital, properties and pensions, so that the extent and value of the ‘family pot’ can be determined. In certain circumstances, it may be possible to exclude an asset from the family pot.
Once the extent, and value, of the family pot has been agreed, you and your partner can proceed with negotiating a settlement regarding the division of family assets.
If agreement cannot be reached, one of you may issue court proceedings to ask the court to determine the matter. The court takes various matters into account when considering what order should be made. It considers all the circumstances of the case, gives first consideration to the welfare of any children of the family under the age of 18, and has regard to a number of factors such as the duration of the civil partnership, the ages of each partner, the financial needs and responsibilities of each partner, the standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the partnership, the conduct of each partner etc. The list is not exhaustive. The court’s objective is to achieve a fair outcome although a fair outcome does not necessarily mean an equal division of family assets. The court has the power to make orders in relation to maintenance, property, capital and pensions.
Once the civil partnership is dissolved, your former partner may still be in a position to make a financial claim against you or your estate. He or she can make such a claim at any point in the future before they register another civil partnership. The only way to avoid such a claim being made against you is to ensure that your respective claims against each other are dismissed. This is called a clean break. The clean break clause is usually included in the Consent or Court Order, although in some circumstances, it will not be appropriate or possible to have a clean break.