What you can do

​Ending a marriage or civil partnership

When you end a civil partnership it is called a Dissolution. Ending a marriage is called Divorce.

In order to make an application for a dissolution or a divorce the couple must have been married or in a civil partnership for at least 12 months.

Neither a married couple nor those in a civil partnership will be able to divorce on grounds of adultery, or to have their marriage annulled on grounds of non-consummation. The partner (husband/wife or civil partner) wanting to dissolve civil partnership is called the applicant. The ground for a divorce or dissolution is that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. The applicant must be able to clearly explain the basis of his/her application and the reasons that can be given are:

(a) adultery – this reason is only available for a divorce and specifically refers to ‘sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex outside marriage’

(b) unreasonable behaviour – can include having a sexual relationship with someone else regardless of their gender

(c) two years separation with consent from the responent

(d) five years separation

(e) four years desertion

If the judge accepts the application, s/he may grant a Conditional Order and then six weeks after grant the Final Order. The Final Order will officially end a marriage or civil partnership.

Alternatives to a dissolution petition

Other methods of ending a marriage or civil partnership are nullity, presumption of death and separation orders.

Do you need legal advice?

Courts now expect parties to try and resolve any dispute before going to court. This may require the help of a Family Mediator – a trained professional who can help parties reach an agreement about the distribution of assets and the future care of any children. From April 2014 it will become compulsory for couples to have at least attempted mediation. In most cases mediation is far cheaper than going to court and some couples will be entitled to legal aid to cover any costs. If a resolution cannot be achieved and the application is opposed it is essential to seek legal advice. The relevant solicitor will be able to advise the applicant on the legal aspect of his/her situation and support the applicant during the process.

There could be implications of the dissolution for yours or your partners children, your pensions and finances.