These notes are intended to give you a very general idea of what is involved in obtaining a Dissolution Order.


There is only one ground for dissolving a Civil Partnership and that is that the partnership has broken down irretrievably. The person who starts the dissolution proceedings is known as ‘the Petitioner’ and their partner is called ‘the Respondent’. Proceedings for a dissolution cannot be started until at least one year after the Civil Partnership was formed.

To satisfy the court that there has been an irretrievable breakdown the Petitioner must prove one of the following four facts:

  • The Respondent has behaved in such a way that the Petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the Respondent. This fact is commonly known as “unreasonable behaviour”.
  • The Respondent has deserted the Petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately before the start of the dissolution proceedings.
  • You have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately before the start of the dissolution proceedings and the Respondent consents to a Dissolution Order being granted.
  • You have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately before the start of the dissolution proceedings.

The test for ‘behaviour’ is subjective and it does not need to consist of extensive violence, drug or alcohol addiction or other extreme behaviour. A combination of less obvious behaviour can be sufficient. Often issues like working too much (or not working enough), showing too much (or too little) affection, combined with a number of other similar factors are used.


Dissolution proceedings are started by the Petitioner issuing a Petition which sets out basic details of the Civil Partnership. The Application also sets out the facts on which the Petitioner is relying to establish that the partnership has broken down irretrievably. The Petition will include a request for the Civil Partnership to be dissolved and can also include requests for all of the financial claims which are available (e.g. maintenance etc.). If the Petition includes a request for financial claim(s), it does not necessarily mean that these claims will be pursued by the Petitioner.

Once the Petition has been approved and signed by the Petitioner, it is sent to the Court (together with other documents required) and the Court fee. Once the Court office staff have processed the Application, it will be sent to the Respondent, together with an Acknowledgement of Service form.


The Respondent should complete the Acknowledgement of Service form indicating whether he/she wants to defend the dissolution and return it to the Court within 8 days. If the Respondent does not return the form, it may eventually be necessary to arrange for another set of the documents to be served on him/her, unless it can be proved in some other way that he/she has received the Petition and accompanying documents from the Court. This may for example be done by a process server giving it to him/her personally.


Once the Court receives the completed Acknowledgement of Service form it will stamp it and send a copy to the Petitioner. The Petitioner can then apply for a conditional Dissolution Order. This is the point at which the District Judge looks at the Application and decides whether the Petitioner is entitled to a dissolution.

The Court will then set a date for the formal pronouncement of the Conditional Order. This is unlikely to be less than two months from when the application for the Conditional Order is sent to the Court and could well be significantly longer, it depends mainly on the timetable at Court. Unfortunately, currently we are experiencing long delays at Court. Neither party has to go to Court for that hearing. Usually the Judge would just read out the names of partners who are dissolving their Civil Partnerships formally in open Court to pronounce their Conditional Order without anyone attending Court. This is only the first stage of the process, the parties remain civil partners until the final order is made.

If the Petitioner has made a claim for costs, the Judge will also consider this. A short Court hearing will take place for the Judge to determine whether a Costs Order should be made if the parties are in disagreement about this.


The dissolution is not final until the final Dissolution Order is made. The Petitioner can apply for the final Dissolution Order six weeks and one day after the date of the pronouncement of the Conditional Order. The Court should process the application within a week or so, but it could take longer. The application for the final Dissolution Order is processed by the Court staff without a hearing.

If the Petitioner fails to apply for the final Dissolution Order within 3 months of the six week date (i.e. roughly four and a half months from the date of the Conditional Order), the Respondent can apply for the final Dissolution Order. However, if the Respondent does make the application, he/she will not be granted the final Dissolution Order automatically. A short hearing will be fixed before a District Judge who will consider whether it is reasonable for the dissolution to be finalised.


In all, dissolving a Civil Partnership will generally take approximately nine months from start to finish, but can take longer. The timing will depend on whether either party delays in taking particular steps during the proceedings or more particularly at present the unfortunate delays we are experiencing at Court.