Divorce and Civil Partnership Dissolution
Assuming a couple has been married for a year then they are entitled to obtain a divorce.
Although in some countries it is possible to have a “no fault” divorce unfortunately, in this country, it is not an option yet, although this is about to change.
At present, however, there is one ground for divorce – the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. To show that, it is necessary to establish one of five facts – a peg to “hang” the divorce on:
- Adultery – the other party has committed adultery and the person starting the divorce finds it intolerable to live with him/her
- Unreasonable behaviour – the other party has behaved in such a way that the person starting the divorce cannot reasonably be expected to live with them
- Two years’ separation and consent – the parties have been living apart for at least two years and they agree to a divorce
- Five years’ separation – the parties have been living apart for at least five years
- Desertion – the other party has deserted the person starting the divorce for a continuous period of at least two years (for technical reasons this is virtually never used)
We endeavour where possible to agree the basis of the divorce and which party will initiate the process. Having done so, the divorce then usually becomes an administrative exercise with paperwork passing between the lawyers and the court until the couple are divorced.
The divorce itself (as opposed to dealing with financial matters or issues involving children) is usually the simplest part of the process. However, if a couple or case has an international dimension this can impact on whether England is the best place for our client to be divorced.
In some cases the couple can have a range of options/countries where the divorce process can be started. We have experience of a number of such cases and securing England as the jurisdiction if best for our client. We also use a network of expert family lawyers across the world to ensure a client is fully informed as to which is the best option for them – here or another country.
Although the most common route for legally ending a marriage is to choose divorce, it is possible in some cases for a marriage to be annulled. A marriage can be annulled if it is either void (put simply, the marriage should not have taken place in the first place for certain reasons such as being too closely related or underage) or voidable (the marriage should be “cancelled” for certain reasons such as a lack of consummation).
If having spoken to a client we think nullity may be an option we will discuss it with them and the advantages and disadvantages of an annulment as opposed to a divorce.
For couples, divorce is not the only option. For some, a judicial separation may be more appropriate. Most used in cases where the couple do not want to divorce for religious or cultural reasons, it can still be used to formalise a separation. It can also be used in cases where a couple may wish for a formal separation but do not wish to lose a valuable financial benefit such as a widow’s pension. The disadvantage is that the process can be just as time consuming and expensive as the divorce process but without the financial certainty that a divorce provides.
A number of our team have dealt with and brought about judicial separations and are able to properly consider with clients whether this or an alternative is the best course of action.
Civil partnership dissolution
In March 2014 same sex couples were granted the entitlement to marry. Prior to that, and since the end of 2005, same sex couples achieved very similar rights, entitlements and obligations to married couples by entering into a civil partnership.
To bring a civil partnership to an end it must be ‘dissolved’. The dissolution of a civil partnership follows the same procedure as a divorce and it is necessary to establish that the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. There are, however, only four ‘facts’ available to establish that the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down – unreasonable behaviour, two years’ separation with consent, five years’ separation or desertion. Adultery cannot be used although a relationship with another person can be cited as unreasonable behaviour.
A dissolution gives civil partners the same financial entitlements as they would have if going through divorce proceedings.
It is also possible now to convert a civil partnership into a marriage by signing a “conversion into marriage” declaration.
The lawyers at Hall Brown have regularly assisted civil partners dissolve their partnerships and address the various financial claims that arise as a result.