Expert advice to protect your interests if your same sex relationship breaks down

The end of a relationship is a difficult time, but it’s important not to rush into decisions. The right legal advice can help protect your rights whether you have been living together, have a cohabitation agreement or are in a civil partnership or married. As one of the leading family and divorce law firms in the south of England, we can help you with informed, practical advice and the reassurance of many years’ experience in handling these delicate matters.

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 now apply to same sex relationships too. It depends on how formalised your relationship is , whether you are simply living together, have made a cohabitation agreement, are in a civil partnership or are married.

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 professional assistance from an expert in same sex family law 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 expert same sex divorce lawyers have wide experience of helping 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, were in a civil partnership or were married.


If your marriage is legally recognised in England and Wales (including same sex marriages) and your relationship breaks down, you might want to start divorce proceedings. Our family law team includes experienced same sex divorce solicitors who can offer all of the legal advice and support you need to protect your interests and those of any children you may have together with your former partner. See our separate divorce page.

Living together/cohabitation

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). Such an agreement can offer you and your partner confidence with the way in which property and other financial matters will be dealt with while living together and in the event that the relationship breaks down. A properly drafted cohabitation agreement can also offer civil remedies in relation to certain aspects if there is a dispute.

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 children’s 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 experienced same sex solicitors first, such as the team at Moore Barlow. We’ll listen, and give you practical advice, including how to use our mediation service if you cannot agree.

Civil partnership

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  by virtue of:

  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Two years’ separation by consent
  • Five years’ separation without consent
  • Desertion for two years or more

NB. Interestingly, adultery is not a fact

Stages for dissolving a civil partnership

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 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.

How long does it take to dissolve a civil partnership?

Depending on the court and availability of court time, the divorce process can take around 18 to 24 weeks.

What are the court fees for getting a dissolution of a civil partnership?

Currently, the court fee is £550 (please note, this is not the solicitor’s fee).

Can the courts deal with your dissolution; do they have jurisdiction?

The courts in England and Wales can deal with your dissolution 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 or 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.

The next step

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.

Why Moore Barlow?

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 and other aspects of same sex family law. 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.

We have offices in Southampton, Woking, Richmond, Guildford, London and Lymington and offer specialist support and advice to our clients nationwide.

I am in a same-sex marriage, can I get divorced?

Yes, couples in a same-sex marriage can get divorced in much the same way as an opposite-sex couple.

On what grounds can I get a divorce?

A divorce can be granted on the ground that the marriage has irretrievably broken down by relying on one of the following facts:

  • Your spouse has behaved unreasonably;
  • You have lived separately for at least two years and you both agree to get a divorce;
  • You have lived separately for at least five years;
  • Your spouse has deserted you.

Are there any differences between ending a same-sex marriage and ending an opposite-sex marriage?

There is only one key difference, same-sex marriages cannot be annulled on the basis of non-consummation and cannot be divorced on the basis of adultery unlike opposite-sex marriages.

My spouse has cheated on me by having an affair; can I get divorced?

You can rely on the fact that your spouse has behaved unreasonably by having an affair in order to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Why can’t I rely on my spouse’s adultery to end our same-sex marriage?

Adultery cannot be relied upon to bring a same-sex marriage to an end but instead it can fall within what the court would consider to be unreasonable behaviour.

How do I begin to get a divorce?

The first step can differ from couple to couple; some may wish to explore reconciliation while others may be ready to make a court application for divorce. It is always useful for both spouses to first take independent legal advice so they become familiar with the procedures involved and the paperwork that must be completed.

How do I sort out issues in relation to our home, savings and other assets when I get divorced?

The finances can be dealt with before, during and even after the marriage has ended. It is usually better to deal with this aspect as soon as possible. In the course of divorce proceedings, an agreement over the finances can be negotiated and ratified by the court or if necessary the court can determine these issues.

How do I sort out issues in relation to the children when I get divorced?

Issues in relation to the children, such as who they live with and how much time they spend with each of you, can also be dealt with before, during and even after the marriage has ended. These issues are dealt with under separate court proceedings from the divorce but in the first instance, an agreement can be reached directly with the other party if possible.

Contact our solicitors

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