Civil Partnership Mediation | Ending a Civil Partnership

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Ending a civil partnership is a process known as 'dissolving' or 'dissolution', but other than the name it is very similar to divorce in a lot of ways.

In particular, it is the legal process by which civil partnership separation is made official. Ending a civil partnership frees you of legal obligations to your partner, including separating your finances and possessions, and is therefore every bit as detailed and in-depth as divorcing a married partner. Family mediators can help you to dissolve your civil partnership with minimal stress, cost and delay.

Get help with civil partnership separation


If you are separating from your civil partner, whether same-sex or mixed-sex, Marcia Mediation can help you to understand the process you need to follow and the legal rules as they apply to your specific circumstances.

How long have civil partnerships been around?

Civil partnerships were originally introduced in the UK in 2004 as an equivalent to marriage for same-sex couples, but over time things have become a little more complex.

For instance, in 2014 the first same-sex marriages took place, while at the end of 2019, mixed-sex civil partnerships were introduced in England and Wales, followed closely by Northern Ireland, with similar legislation pending in Scotland.

Is ending a civil partnership different to divorce?

Ending a civil partnership differs from divorce in some important ways. One example of this is that there is no same-sex definition of ‘adultery’ and as such, the option to dissolve a same-sex civil partnership because of adultery simply does not exist.

Again, this removes one of the acceptable reasons for separation with no time limit attached and makes it even more important to work with experienced civil partnership mediators who understand the unique challenges of civil partnership separation.

There are also some practical differences between divorce and dissolving a civil partnership. For instance, if you have children together, it is essential to protect both parents’ legal rights and responsibilities.

In some cases, you may discover that you do not legally have parental responsibility for a minor who you have always thought of as your child. Family mediators can help you to resolve this amicably so everybody’s rights are protected, including your child’s.

These are the kinds of decisions that can affect your long-term happiness and the future structure of your family. Mediators are here to make the journey as smooth and positive as possible as you all move forwards along your post-dissolution path.

What you need to think about

Ask yourself what you want to achieve from your civil partnership dissolution. It is rarely as simple as legally severing all ties from your former partner, especially where children are involved or where you have shared finances and jointly owned assets.

Make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities and how they apply specifically to ending a civil partnership as opposed to a mixed-sex marriage – and in particular the options that are not available, such as dissolution due to adultery.

A Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) can help you answer these questions and assess whether mediation would be an appropriate means of resolution. At Marcia Mediation, we treat couples undergoing a civil partnership dissolution with just as much care as we do divorcing couples, and we have a successful track record of negotiating same-sex separations. An experienced family mediator can help you bring the dissolution to a faster, more amicable and less costly conclusion that is acceptable to everyone.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you to carry out civil partnership dissolution with dignity and take your next steps on a more positive life journey, contact us today.

What are the grounds for divorce vs grounds for dissolution of a civil partnership?


There’s an important difference between ending a civil partnership, sometimes referred to as ‘dissolution’, the legally accepted grounds for divorce.

Grounds for divorce include the following:

  • Adultery – Your spouse had sexual intercourse with somebody of the opposite sex.
  • Desertion – Your spouse has left you for a minimum of two years.
  • Separation – You’ve lived separate lives for at least two years and agree to divorce, or your spouse doesn’t agree to the divorce but you’ve been separated for at least five years.
  • Unreasonable Behaviour – Controlling or coercive behaviour, physical violence, drug and alcohol addiction etc.

Grounds to dissolve a civil partnership include unreasonable behaviour, desertion and both separation grounds as described above, but not adultery – so what if your partner is unfaithful?

What happens if you cheat in a civil partnership?

If you are in a civil partnership, whether same-sex or mixed-sex, you can still apply to end the civil partnership if your partner is unfaithful.

The important thing to note is that the legal definition of adultery means it must be between a man and a woman, therefore for same-sex civil partnerships it would not apply if your partner were to cheat on you with a member of the same sex.

Because of this, affairs and cheating in civil partnerships fall under ‘unreasonable behaviour’ but are still grounds for dissolution if your partner’s unfaithfulness leads you to separate.

What happens to your children if you dissolve a civil partnership?


If you have children with your current spouse, you’ll need to make certain arrangements whether you are dissolving or divorcing.

These include agreements for looking after the children, as well as financial arrangements that make both parents responsible for the child’s quality of life.

Other types of partnership

Aside from marriage and civil partnerships, you may want to consider the following types of partnership:

What is a common-law marriage?

You’ve probably heard the term ‘common-law husband’ or ‘common-law wife’ used to refer to somebody’s partner if they are in a long-term relationship, especially when cohabiting, but have never married or formed a civil partnership.

A huge number of people believe common-law marriage gives them certain legal rights. However, this is not the case.

While you may earn certain limited rights – for example, if you buy a house under a joint mortgage with a partner to whom you are not married – in general, there is no automatic legal right granted to you just because you live with someone for a long time.

What is a cohabitation contract?

If you want to live together without getting married, you could consider a cohabitation contract instead.

This is a legal document that allows you to set out an agreement on how you will share the property and your rights and obligations towards one another.

For example, this might be a sensible measure to take if one person is moving into a property that is wholly owned and furnished by the other, to make clear whether it will remain the sole possession of the owner or be shared 50/50.

What this means for separation and divorce

All of this means it is legally easier to separate if you are not married or in a civil partnership, as there’s no need to get a divorce or dissolution, but it can be more complicated to reach an agreement on separating finances and assets – especially if one party claims sole ownership.

For example, if your partner has always controlled the household finances, using an account solely in their name, it can be very difficult to prove you have any claim to a share of the balance.

In any such dispute, mediators can help with a common-sense approach to making arrangements that respect the law but also ensure neither partner is left facing an adverse situation after getting out of a long-term, co-dependent, but never legally formalised relationship.

Contact us today if you would like to consider mediation to separate from your partner.

Older couple listening and smiling

Meet Marcia

A pioneer for mediation since commencing legal practice as a family solicitor some seventeen years ago, Marcia has worked exclusively as an independent mediator since 2004, focussing initially on family mediation, and latterly on work place mediation.

Marcia’s accreditations include Family Mediation and she is a qualified child consultant practitioner. Her associations include the Professional Mediators Association and Resolution.

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If you have any questions, call us on 0161 425 3940 or fill out this form

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