Pride and Prejudice – Marriage in Modern Times
Sahil Aggarwal | 05.07.2019
The law has now generally caught up with the concept of same sex relationships, which means that if your relationship breaks down, many of the legal aspects about divorce and separation can apply. It depends on how formalised your relationship is – whether you are simply living together, have made a cohabitation agreement or are in a civil partnership.
Whatever your arrangement, the end of a relationship is a painful time. It can be difficult to think clearly, but it’s important not to rush into decisions now, only to regret them later. This is where a solicitor can help. By discussing your situation and discovering the outcome you want, your solicitor will be able to suggest the right course of action to protect your interests, particularly where jointly owned property or assets are concerned.
Our family law and divorce lawyers have wide experience of helping same sex couples through the ordeal of a relationship breakdown. We will provide pragmatic and reassuring advice that will help give you certainty at a time of confusion. Here we explain how your rights differ, depending on whether you were living together, had a cohabitation agreement or were in a civil partnership.
If you are living together and subsequently break up, the law does not provide a great deal of protection. This is why it’s a good idea, if yours is a long-term relationship, to make a cohabitation agreement (sometimes also known as a living together agreement). It gives you some, if not all, of the legal protection you would benefit from in a civil partnership.
If you want to live together without making a cohabitation agreement or entering into a civil partnership, it’s sensible to have legally enforceable agreements covering property or major assets you have bought together. Then, if your relationship ends, you will each know where you stand in terms of the property and/or assets, and what your share will be.
We can explain how this works and draw up the legal documents for you. We can also advise on what happens to the money if you had a joint bank account.
If you have children, the situation is rather more complicated. Parental responsibility laws mean you must make decisions about your living arrangements, health, education and welfare. If you’re the same sex partner of a child’s parent, you may have parental responsibility. This will affect your rights and responsibilities regarding contact with the child and providing financial support for them, if your relationship has ended.
Since this can become complex, we strongly recommend you talk to us first. We’ll listen, and give you practical advice, including how to use our mediation service if you cannot agree.
There are separate laws for cohabiting couples, and it’s worth taking time to understand how they can affect you in a relationship breakdown. For details, see our separate cohabitation page.
A civil partnership has very similar legal status to marriage, so if your relationship has reached breaking point you can dissolve a civil partnership in much the same way as married couples get a divorce.
You will need to show the court you have been in a civil partnership for longer than a year and prove to the court that your civil partnership has irretrievably broken down on the grounds of:
The petitioner (the person wanting to end the civil partnership) files a petition at court for the dissolution of the civil partnership. As well as the preparing the petition, your solicitor will also prepare a Statement of Reconciliation. This confirms that you, as Petitioner, and your solicitor have discussed the possibility of reconciliation. The petition, statement and fee for the petition are all sent to the court.
The court will send a copy of the sealed petition, together with an Acknowledgement of Service, to the Respondent, who is the other person in the partnership. The Respondent completes the acknowledgement and returns it. If they accept the stated grounds for divorce and don’t intend to defend it, their role in this process comes to an end.
The petitioner then files a statement in support of the petition and asks the court to grant the first order within the dissolution process, which is a conditional order. After six weeks and a day, the petitioner can apply for a final order and the civil partnership is officially dissolved.
Depending on the court and availability of court time, the divorce process can take around 18 to 24 weeks.
Currently, the court fee is £550 (please note, this is not the solicitor’s fee).
The courts in England and Wales can deal with your divorce if they have ‘jurisdiction’, which usually means as long as both parties are habitually resident in England and Wales.
You may need to prove you are habitually resident in England and Wales, and have been for at least one year. There are various other aspects involved, but this is a specialised area of law and they are too complex to cover here. If you’re in any doubt, please ask our advice.
It’s a good idea to see us as early as possible if you contemplating dissolving your partnership. We may be able to help you save the relationship through our mediation and collaborative approach services. Where children and finances are concerned, it’s important to have expert advice, to ensure your rights are protected and that you’re clear about your obligations
We are recognised as one of the UK’s leading divorce and family law firms, with a strong reputation for representing our clients in civil dissolution cases. Our experience and knowledge, together with clear explanations that keep you informed throughout the process, will make it seem less daunting and help you feel more optimistic for the future.