The Civil Partnership Act 2004 which came into force in December 2005 enables same sex couples to enter into a civil partnership. This is effectively a registered partnership which provides the couple with rights akin to those available to heterosexual couples that choose to marry, for example in relation to Social Security, tax, inheritance and employment benefits.
In order to end a civil partnership, one of the civil partners must petition the Court for a dissolution order but these proceedings cannot start until one year has passed since the date that the civil partnership was registered.
Under the Civil Partnership Act, there is only one ground for dissolving a civil partnership and that is the irretrievable breakdown of the civil partnership. This then has to be evidenced by a supporting fact and these are the same as for divorce except that adultery does not apply:
- Unreasonable behaviour;
- Separation for 2 years with the consent of the other civil partner;
- Desertion for 2 years;
- Separation for 5 years.
The dissolution proceedings then proceed in the same way as a traditional divorce and once they have started, either party to the civil partnership is entitled to apply for financial provision. This can include seeking orders for maintenance, a lump sum, the transfer of a property or properties, a pension share or dealing with other assets whether held in their sole or joint names.
It is for this reason that just as with couples planning to marry, those planning to enter into a civil partnership should consider obtaining legal advice in respect of protecting their position by entering into a pre-registration agreement which is treated in the same way as a pre-nuptial agreement.