This page provides information on dissolving or ending a civil partnership including the grounds and reasons for ending the civil partnership, how to make an application and information on the overall process.
Changes in the law
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (‘DDSA 2020’) has made significant changes to the current process for divorce and dissolution.
Removal of the ‘five facts’
Under the DDSA 2020 there is still only one ground which you can rely on to get dissolve a civil partnership – that the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. However, the requirement to prove this ground using one of five facts has been removed.
Under the old system the applicant had to satisfy one of the five facts which included adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two years’ separation, desertion or five years’ separation. However the DDSA 2020 has replaced relying on one of five facts with a requirement to provide a ‘statement of irretrievable breakdown’, which the court must as conclusive evidence that the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down and no evidence will be required for this beyond a statement.
Narrowed grounds for disputing an application for dissolving a civil partnership
The new law has narrowed the grounds that a respondent can defend the application. Previously a person could defend the ending of the civil partnership where they disagreed with a fact being relied upon. However, an application to dissolve a civil partnership can only be disputed on limited grounds including jurisdiction, validity, subsistence of the civil partnership, fraud or procedural non-compliance. The respondent to an application is not able to dispute whether the civil partnership has broken down.
Introduction of a joint application
The DDSA has provided the ability for couples to make their application to dissolve a civil partnership either jointly or as a sole applicant. Where the application is made jointly both parties will be the applicant and are referred to as Applicant 1 and Applicant 2.
Introduction of a minimum 20 Week Period for conditional order
The DDSA has provided of a minimum period of 20 weeks in proceedings to dissolve a civil partnership between the start of proceedings (when the court issues the application) and when the applicant(s) may apply for a conditional order; a document that confirms there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the civil partnership.
How can you end a Civil Partnership?
To begin dissolution proceedings you must have been married for one year prior to the application being filed. If you have not been married for one year, judicial separation may be more appropriate – see our page on Alternatives to ending a marriage or civil partnership.
There is only one ground which you can rely on to get end a civil partnership – that the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. To show this ground the sole applicant, or joint applicants 1 & 2, must make a statement by ticking the box in Section 6 of the D8 form.
How do I apply for dissolution of civil partnership?
To apply for a dissolution, you need to complete the dissolution application D8 form, this can either be through the digital service or on paper. The cost of the application is £593. If you are on a low income, you may be eligible for a fee exemption and can complete the EX160 form when making the application. You may also be able to apply for legal aid if there has been domestic abuse in your relationship – please see our information page on Legal aid for family matters.
All paper application forms must now be submitted to the following address:
HMCTS Divorce and Dissolution Service, PO Box 13226, Harlow, CM20 9UG
You will need to file a copy of your civil partnership certificate along with the application form.
Once you have completed the form, you will need to make at least three copies, and retain one for your records. You should send the following to court:
- two copies of the application form;
- your civil partnership certificate;
- the fee (£593); and
- the fee exemption form, if applicable.
The court will send the application to the respondent, unless you request to serve the application. The court will either serve the respondent either by post or email address and the respondent will complete an acknowledgement of service.
The process for making a joint application for a divorce is exactly the same as a sole application with the following differences:
- Joint applicants will agree how the £593 fee will be paid and the fee exemption form can be used only where both applicants are have little or no savings and either get certain benefits or have a low income; and
- It is also possible to ‘switch’ the application from joint to sole at conditional and final order application stage only.
What is a conditional order?
A Conditional Order is a document that says the court does not see any reason why you cannot end the civil partnership and confirms the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. You can apply for a Conditional Order using the D84 form.
You will need to wait 20 weeks and 1 day before you can make your application for a Conditional Order to confirm that you wish to continue with your dissolution application.
This period will be known as the ‘Second Prescribed Period’.
What is a final order?
A Final Order is the legal document that ends your civil partnership.
Once you have received your Conditional Order you have to wait 6 weeks and one day before you can apply for a Final Order. You will not be able to legally end your civil partnership until you have received a Final Order.
To apply for your Final Order, you need to complete the D36 form which costs £45/£155. If you are on a low income, you may be eligible for a fee exemption and can complete the EX160 form when making the application.
This period will be known as the ‘First Prescribed Period’.
Once the Final Order has been issued, your civil partnership is legally dissolved.
Ending a Civil Partnership under the previous law (before 6th April 2022)
It is important to distinguish between the regimes of the fault-based system and no-fault dissolution. Depending on when your application was received by the court will dictate the legal process that will be followed by the courts to proceed with your dissolution. Your application will be dealt with under the previous fault-based regime where:
- Your made a paper application which was received by the court by no later than 4pm on the 31st March 2022;
- Your made a digital application which was submitted by no later than 4pm on the 31st March 2022; or
- You made an urgent application that has been sent to the court by 4pm on the 5th April 2022.
If your application was issued under the previous regime then you will need to continue with your application under this regime and cannot convert to the no-fault based system.
The table below outlines the process that would need to be followed where your dissolution application was issued under the previous regime:
The respondent (your spouse) will either agree to end the civil partnership or will defend the dissolution
What happens if my partner agrees to end the civil partnership?
What happens if my partner does not agree to end the civil partnership?
The Respondent (the Applicant’s partner) can agree to end the civil partnership. They need to indicate this on the ‘Acknowledgment of Service’ (form D10) sent to them by the court. Once this has been returned to the court and the court have forwarded you a copy, you can apply for a Conditional Order, using form D84.
If the Respondent (your civil partner) disagrees and wishes to defend the application to end civil partnership, the Respondent will need to state this in the Acknowledgement of Service (D10 form) within the 8 days given. The Respondent then has 21 days to complete form D8B, giving their reasons for defending the application. The cost of this is £245. If you are on a low income you may be eligible for a fee exemption and can complete the EX160 form when making the application.
Application for a Conditional Order
A Conditional Order is the interim order of the court accepting the petition for ending the civil partnership. You will also need to complete a statement confirming your grounds for dissolution:
You also need to file the Respondent’s response to the petition.
Once the court has received the Conditional Order application, the Judge will then decide whether to grant this.
Application for a Final Order
The Final Order is the document which ends the civil partnership.
Once you have received your Conditional Order, you have to wait 6 weeks and one day before you can apply for a Final Order. You should apply within 12 months of getting the Conditional Order. To apply for your Final Order, you need to complete form D36, which costs £45.
If you are the Respondent in an application for ending a civil partnership then you will need to wait 3 months and one day to apply for your final order. The fee will be £155. If you are on a low income you may be eligible for a fee exemption and can complete the form EX160 when making the application. A court hearing will then be held.