According to the Office for National Statistics, since the introduction of civil partnerships in 2005, over 65,000 couples have formalised their relationship in this way and been afforded similar legal rights to those of married couples, including when it comes to separating.
Since 2015, each year has seen over 1,200 couples dissolving their civil partnership and having to sort out their finances as they seek to start a new life.
Joanne Aggett, Associate in the Family Team at WBW Solicitors in Newton Abbot explains that ‘While some of the formalities are different, when it comes to dealing with financial disputes arising from the dissolution of a civil partnership the same principles apply as would on divorce’.
Full and frank disclosure
Before you can be advised about how your assets are likely to be divided, it is important that each partner discloses their financial assets and liabilities.
This is known as making ‘full and frank’ disclosure, and will normally entail providing copies of bank statements, pay slips, savings accounts and any stocks or shares you have as well as any credit cards or other debts. It will be necessary to obtain a valuation for any land or properties owned, whether in one partner’s sole name or in joint names, as well as an up-to-date valuation of pensions.
Once all of your information is gathered together it will be necessary to exchange this with your former partner’s solicitor, and then settlement discussions can commence.
The next step is to consider what is in the pot and how this should be dealt with. There is no set formula for how assets are divided and each case will turn on its own circumstances, but the starting point is equality.
A number of factors will be taken into account which may shift the division in favour of one partner or the other. For example, the length of the relationship including any period of cohabitation prior to the civil partnership; it will be easier to argue that a 50/50 division is unfair in a short-term partnership where one partner contributed significantly more financially.
Other factors will also be reviewed, such as the standard of living enjoyed, ages and earning potential. If either partner has a disability, then they may be entitled to a larger portion of the assets. The housing needs of minor children will be assessed and the parent who resides with the children may be entitled to a larger portion of the equity in the family home.
Reaching amicable agreement
You may have already discussed with your partner how you wish to divide assets, or you may be keen to try and reach an agreement with your partner via negotiation through your solicitor.
Either way, it is possible to reach an agreement without having to apply to court. It is vitally important that any agreement reached is legally binding to ensure that your assets are protected now and into the future. In order to achieve this, both you and your former partner will need to have independent legal advice so that you are fully
If you are unable to reach agreement, then your solicitor will advise you on the routes via mediation and court.
Before you can issue any court proceedings you will be expected to attend a preliminary mediation session (known as MIAM) which involves both of you meeting with a trained mediator to discuss your options and future. It is not aimed at rekindling the relationship, but at trying to reach an agreement on how best to finalise the partnership.
If mediation is unsuccessful or not appropriate, then the only remaining option may be to proceed to court where a judge will decide how your assets will be divided. The judge will insist that a full and frank disclosure of assets and liabilities is made and if either of you refuses to do so, then the party refusing will likely be heavily penalised in costs by the court.
Court proceedings can be expensive and so as soon as you are considering a dissolution of your civil partnership it is best to seek legal advice. This will give you the optimum chance of resolving matters in a cost effective and timely manner.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.