A civil partnership dissolution financial settlement is an arrangement under which a couple’s assets and financial affairs are separated upon dissolution of civil partnership. In England and Wales, the act of dissolution of civil partnership itself doesn’t put an end to the financial relationship between you and your civil partner. An application for civil partnership dissolution financial settlement is made to the family court by completing application form A.

Obtaining a financial settlement when you are dissolving your civil partnership is important because outstanding financial claims may come back to disrupt your lives even years after your civil partnership dissolution has been finalised. This is because in England and Wales, even when your civil partnership is dissolved, you still retain the ability to make financial claims against your ex and vice versa, and there’s no time limit for making these. This is why it’s crucial to put your financial affairs in order and have a binding court order stating what your financial arrangements with your former civil partner are.

Contents Table

Specialist Civil Partnership Dissolution Settlement Solicitors
What Is Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement?
When Can I Apply For Financial Settlement?
How Are Assets Split?
The Matrimonial Home
Business Assets
Assets Held In A Trust
Pension
Overseas Assets
Life Insurance Or Endowment Policies
Inheritance
Step By Step Process For Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement
How Much We Charge?
How Much Is The Court Fee?
Need Help? Book An Appointment
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Specialist Civil Partneship Dissolution Settlement Solicitors

The dissolution lawyers at Sunrise Solicitors are specialists in civil partnership dissolution financial settlement matters. Our expert team of civil partnership dissolution financial settlement solicitors have wealth of knowledge and experience of successfully handling civil partnership dissolution financial settlement matters.

Ending your civil partnership and need legal help and assistance with civil partnership dissolution financial settlement? Contact our expert team of civil partnership dissolution financial settlement solicitors in London, Manchester or Birmingham for fast, friendly, reliable and fixed fee legal services for your civil partnership dissolution financial settlement application. Ask a question to our expert civil partnership dissolution financial settlement solicitors for free dissolution settlement advice online by completing our enquiry form and one of our dissolution settlement solicitors will answer your question as soon as possible.

What Is Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement?

A civil partnership dissolution financial settlement is an arrangement under which a couple’s assets and financial affairs are separated upon civil partnership dissolution. "Ancillary relief" is the term used by lawyers to describe all orders of a financial or property nature or that relate to pensions that a Court can make following divorcejudicial separationDissolution Of Civil Partnership, or nullity proceedings. 

When Can I Apply For Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement?

After the family court has issued conditional order of dissolution and after both parties have exhausted the mediation process (where applicable), an application for civil partnership dissolution financial settlement can be made to the family court.

You can normally get a financial settlement any time during the dissolution proceedings.  However, you can apply for financial settlement even after the civil partnership dissolution has been finalised. It’s advisable to apply for financial settlement before your partner or you have remarried or re-registered your civil partnership.

How Are Assets Split In Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement?

The judge has the final decision on how your assets will be split. The key factors which will be taken into account in an assessment of how any capital should be divided, as well as whether or not income should be shared, are as follows:

  • Children – their financial needs as well as other factors that may affect their future wellbeing;
  • The financial needs of you and your partner;
  • The length of the civil partnership and your respective ages;
  • The current earnings of each party and the potential earning capacity of each party now and in the future;
  • Health issues affecting either you, your civil partner or any children;
  • The assets of each party including pensions;
  • The standard of living you have had during the civil partnership;
  • The financial and non-financial contributions (such as caring for children and running the house) that each of you has made to the civil partnership;
  • It is only in very exceptional circumstances that the conduct of you and/or your civil partner is relevant when dealing with financial matters.

The judge is only likely to consider a 50/50 split if you have been in civil partnership for a long time.  The main consideration is the needs of those involved, including children. If, after consideration, the judge thinks that one of you has greater need than the other, the assets can be split unequally.

If, for example, two young people dissolve their civil partnership after a brief, childless civil partnership, it might be fair for them to each walk away with the assets they brought into the civil partnership, with neither paying the other maintenance.

On the other hand, suppose a couple have been in civil partnership for 30 years, with the wife bringing up the children and looking after the home while the husband worked. A fair financial settlement might award the wife half the joint assets, including half her husband's pension entitlement and a significant proportion of her husband's income until he retires. This would reflect the value of the wife's contribution to the civil partnership as a homemaker and the fact that she would not now be in a position to suddenly start earning a large income.

If there are children, their needs - including maintenance - are dealt with separately as a priority.

The Matrimonial Home & Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement

The family home will almost always be an asset of the civil partnership and will therefore be included in the financial negotiations. Civil partnership dissolution settlement negotiations start from the point of a broad equality in division of assets. If one partner wishes to retain the family home, they will need to have enough other assets to be able to offset the value of their partner’s share of the home by transferring assets of that value to their partner.

If not enough assets are available to achieve this, then the family home may have to be sold so that the equity contained within it can be split.

In some situations, particularly if there are children, it can be possible to be more creative, for example, one partner could stay in the family home with the children, and the other partner leaving the home could retain a defined financial interest in the property, which they will realise at an agreed future date.

Business Assets & Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement

A family business is often looked at as something which produces an income - that can be used to provide maintenance - rather than just as an asset to be shared or sold.

There is no presumption that the individual who has built up the business has a greater claim to the business assets. The other partner's contribution to the civil partnership, for example, by looking after the home and children, might be considered to be equally large. Depending on the circumstances, this might mean that each partner could claim entitlement to about half the value of the business.

In many circumstances, it is possible to agree a settlement that allows the business to continue. For example:

  • one partner could retain ownership of the business and pay maintenance out of the business income;
  • the individual who will retain ownership of the business could borrow against the value of the business to provide a lump sum for the other partner;
  • the business could be split into two separate businesses.

Where possible, courts try to avoid ordering a financial settlement that results in the break-up or liquidation of a business.

Assets Held In A Trust & Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement

Pparties dissolving civil partnership must disclose any trusts from which they benefit or expect to benefit, and the value of these benefits can be taken into account. There can be a grey area where the trustees of the trust have discretion over who will benefit.

If one of the partnership in a civil partnership dissolution has previously placed assets into trust, these assets might also be taken into account. Clearly, this will be the case if the partner who put the assets into trust is a beneficiary of the trust. It may also be possible to make a claim against the trust if it can be shown that the assets are still under the settlor's control or that the settlor created the trust once the marriage started to break down to shelter assets from a claim.

Trust law is complex. You should take advice if you wish to place assets into trust or discuss what claim you might have against assets held in trust.

Pension & Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement

Your pension is an asset of civil partnership, like your home and other assets. The value of your pension can be taken into account in deciding a fair settlement. Practical solutions can include:

  • offsetting the value of one partner's pension fund by transferring a lump sum, or other assets, to the other partner;
  • splitting the pension fund into two separate pension funds, one for each partner;
  • arranging that when a pension comes to be paid, a proportion of it is paid to the other partner.

Overseas Assets & Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement

Assets held overseas can be taken into consideration in the same way as any other assets. In practice, a partner may seek to hide overseas assets or transfer assets overseas to make them more difficult to recover. If you suspect that your partner is doing this, take immediate legal advice.

Life Insurance Or Endowment Policies & Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement

Life insurance and endowment policies are taken into account when agreeing a fair settlement. You should agree how each policy will be handled, whether premiums will continue to be paid for regular contribution policies, and whether the beneficiaries of any life insurance cover will be changed.

You may choose to retain individual policies or to sell (or surrender) them. Any policies in joint names will normally be sold or transferred into one individual's name. Early surrender of a policy may result in a sharp fall in the expected value of the policy; any surrender, sale or transfer may also have tax consequences. Take advice on the best option in your circumstances.

Inheritance & Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement

A judge will not necessarily include an inheritance in your financial settlement, but will consider the needs of those involved. If you received your inheritance while you were in civil partnership, the courts are more likely to include it as part of the settlement, but if it was received after your civil partnership broke down, they are more likely to exclude it.

What Is The Step By Step Process For Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement?

The civil partnership dissolution financial settlement proceedings are very much Court-controlled. The Court will impose timetables for compliance with its orders and the parties will usually be required to personally attend all Court hearings. There may well be costs consequences for failing to adhere to timetables, to obey Court orders and to attend hearings.

Following is the step by step process for civil partnership dissolution financial settlement:

Step 1: Notice of Application - Form A

A civil partnership dissolution financial settlement application is started by filing with the Court Form A application ('Notice of an application for a financial order'), accompanied by a cheque in the sum of £255 without consent and £50 with consent, being the court fee payable.

Step 2: First Directions Appointment (FDA) date

The Court then sends each party a sealed copy of the Form A, accompanied by both a Notice of First Appointment (Form C) and a Notice of Response to First Appointment (Form G). Form C is the most important of these because:

  • It contains details of the date and time of the First Appointment (that will be in 12 to 16 weeks' time);
  • It contains the timetable for the case up to the initial hearing date of it (the "First Appointment"). This timetable provides the dates for the parties to file with the Court and to exchange with each other:
    • A Statement of Information about their financial circumstances (known as a Form E) no later than 35 days before the First Appointment;
    • A concise statement of the apparent issues between the parties;
    • A chronology;
    • Either a questionnaire setting out the further information and documents each requires from the other, or, a statement that no such information or documents are required;
    • A completed Notice in Form G, stating whether the party will be in a position at the First Appointment to treat that hearing as a Financial Dispute Resolution hearing ("FDR").
  • The Form C also provides that an estimate in Form H of any legal costs incurred by the party be produced to the Court at the First Appointment and a copy supplied to the other party.

Step 3: Financial statement - Form E

Each party to the civil partnership dissolution financial settlement completes a Form E (Financial Statement) and sends the same to the court at least five weeks before the First Directions Appointment (FDA). Copy of the form E is also sent to the other party.

Step 4: First Directions Appointment (FDA) Documents

The following documents are filed 2 weeks before the First Directions Appointment (FDA):

  • A concise statement of issues;
  • A chronology of events;
  • A questionnaire to address issues arising from the Form E;
  • A Form G, through which you tell the court whether the FDA meeting can be combined with the Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) meeting. Typically the FDR meeting takes place after the FDA meeting.

Step 5. Legal Costs Incurred By Each Party- Form H

Each party completes and sends the court a completed Form H just before the FDA meeting, listing any costs they have incurred.

Step 6: First Directions Appointment (FDA) Meeting At Court

The first hearing of a civil partnership dissolution financial settlement application is termed "The First Appointment". The First Appointment is a directions hearing that has to be attended personally by both parties unless the court orders otherwise. The objectives of the First Appointment are to define the issues in dispute between the parties and to save costs. The hearing takes place before a member of the judiciary called a "District Judge" who must determine:

  • The extent to which any questionnaires served by the parties seeking further information must be answered; and
  • The documents that must be produced and to give directions for the production of such further documents as are necessary.

The Judge must also give directions about such matters as:

  • The valuation of assets, most usually the matrimonial home;
  • The obtaining and exchanging of expert evidence, most usually with regard to the value of pension assets, if required;
  • The evidence to be produced by each party; and
  • The preparation of further chronologies or schedules (where appropriate).

It is assumed that the District Judge does decide that an FDR is appropriate. It is possible for the court to treat the First Appointment as an FDR. It may be remembered that the Form G can be completed accordingly. However, experience is that few First Appointments are treated as FDRs. The reasons for this include:

  • That there are usually outstanding issues regarding the valuation of the parties' assets, particularly the former matrimonial home;
  • The replies to the parties' respective questionnaires and requests for documentation are required before negotiations can take place;
  • An insufficiency of court time. The majority of courts list First Appointments with a time estimate of 30 minutes and FDR's for one hour, this with a requirement that the parties and their advisors attend an hour before the actual FDR for the purposes of negotiations and in order to narrow the issues between them.

Step 7: File Proposals

Both sides answer questionnaires, prepare evidence, and submit proposals to the court for the civil partnership dissolution financial settlement. Both sides also submit a second Form H, listing updated costs.

Step 8: Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) Hearing

The second of the three most likely court hearings in respect of an ancillary relief application is the Financial Dispute Resolution ("FDR"):

  • The FDR appointment must be treated as a meeting held for the purpose of discussion and negotiation.
  • Both parties must personally attend the FDR unless the court orders otherwise.
  • The Judge or District Judge hearing the FDR appointment must have no further involvement in the case, other than to conduct any further FDR appointment or to make a consent order if agreement is reached, or to make a further directions order.
  • Not later than 7 days before the FDR appointment, the Applicant for ancillary relief must file with the Court details of all offers, proposals and the responses to these.
  • This includes any offers, proposals or responses that are made wholly or partly "without prejudice" (that is, usually privileged from disclosure to the Court).
  • At the conclusion of the FDR appointment, any documents filed with the Court under point 4 above and any filed documents referring to them must be returned to the party filing them at his/her request and not retained on the Court file.
  • Parties attending the FDR appointment must use their best endeavours to reach agreement on the matters in issue between them.
  • The FDR appointment may be adjourned from time to time.
  • At the conclusion of the FDR appointment, the Court may make an appropriate Consent Order (if the parties have agreed terms of settlement) but must otherwise give directions for the future course of proceedings, including, where appropriate, the filing of evidence and fixing a final hearing date.

Experience has been that few cases settle at an FDR appointment. There are a number of reasons for this including:

  • The fact that some cases simply seem incapable of being settled by agreement. They require judicial determination;
  • In other cases the observations made by the Judge or District Judge with regard to the bases for settlement of a case do not find favour with one, other or even both of the parties;
  • Some parties, quite understandably, want more time to consider decisions that, once made, could have profound repercussions for their futures.

It is, however, important to remember that no guillotine falls with regard to negotiations between the parties following the FDR appointment. The parties can continue to negotiate up to the time of their Final Hearing, if indeed there is one.

Step 9: Further Proposals

The negotiations continue between the two sides, including revised proposals for settlement that are sent to the court and to the other party.

Step 10: Final Hearing

"Final hearings" probably only occur in some 10% of cases involving an application for ancillary relief. If a final hearing is necessary, in addition to listing the matter for such, the Judge dealing with the case at the FDR stage is likely to make what is known as an "order for directions". Typically such an order will require the parties to:

  • File (with the Court) and exchange (with each other) what are termed "narrative" or "Section 25" (of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973) statements. That legislation contains details of the matters to which the Court is to have regard in deciding how to exercise its powers when dealing with ancillary relief applications, first consideration being given to the welfare, while a minor, of any child of the family who has not attained the age of eighteen;
  • Provide updating of the financial disclosure previously made by them, whether in their respective Financial Statements (Forms E) or subsequently. It should be borne in mind that a period of 9 to 12 months may have elapsed between the filing and exchange of Forms E and the date of the final hearing;
  • Produce up to date valuations of assets such as the former matrimonial home, business interests, pension funds and similar items.

Recent experience is that a minimum of two days will be allocated to the final hearing of a case, even where the issues between the parties and the extent of their assets are relatively limited. At a final hearing, the parties will each give evidence on oath that is subject to cross-examination. There is also likely to be a detailed consideration of the documentation produced by both parties. Generally, the parties' cases will be presented by barristers (or "counsel") who will both represent their respective clients and make representations on their behalf.

Depending upon matters such as the complexity of the case, judgment may not be given at the conclusion of the hearing but "reserved" to be given at some subsequent date.

How Much Sunrise Solicitors Charge For Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement?

Our Fixed Fees For Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement

Our fixed fees for various stages of the civil partnership dissolution process involving financial settlement proceedings are given in the table below. The agreed fixed fee will be dependent on the volume of work involved in the case and the complexity of the matter. Please be advised that our fixed fees do not cover the court fees and the Barrister's fees.

Casework Stage Fixed Fee Range (Acting For The Petitioner) Fixed Fee Range (Acting For The Respondent)
Uncontested civil partnership dissolution From £600 + VAT To £1,200 + VAT From £500 + VAT To £1,000 + VAT
Preparation for mediation for financial settlement, mediation referral and follow up advice. From £500 + VAT To £800 + VAT From £500 + VAT To £800 + VAT
In case of agreement being reached in mediation, reviewing agreement and advising on the same. Where acting for the petitioner, preparing and filing of consent order with the family court. From £700 + VAT To £1,200 + VAT From £500 + VAT To £800 + VAT

In case of no agreement being reached in mediation, all the work from issuing financial proceedings until First Appointment Hearing which includes the following:

  • completing form A and filing the same with the court;
  • complying with the court directions;
  • completion of Form E;
  • preparation of Questionnaires and Chronology;
  • preparation for First Appointment Hearing;
  • attending the family court for First Appointment Hearing to assist the Barrister in the case.
 From £2,000 + VAT To £3,000 + VAT From £1,500 + VAT To £2,500 + VAT

Preparation for First Dispute Resolution (FDR) Hearing which includes the following:

  • replying to the Questionnaire;
  • complying with the court directions;
  • assisting with valuation of properties, if applicable;
  • negotiations and offers;
  • preparation of court bundles, where acting for the petitioner;
  • attending the family court for First Dispute Resolution (FDR) Hearing to assist the Barrister in the case.
From £3,000 + VAT To £4,000 + VAT From £2,500 + VAT To £3,500 + VAT

Preparation for Final Heaaring which includes the following:

  • complying with court directions;
  • preparing any witness statements;
  • instructing and briefing the Barrister for the court hearing;
  • attending any pre-hearing conference with the barrister, where necessary;
  • making necessary preparations for the final hearing;
  • attending the family court for Final Hearing to assist the Barrister in the case.
From £4,000 + VAT To £5,000 + VAT From £4,000 + VAT To £5,000 + VAT

Our Hourly Rates For Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement

  • Our team of civil partnership dissolution & family law solicitors can act for you on hourly rate basis instead of fixed fee. Our hourly rate ranges from from £120 + VAT to £200 + VAT per hour in relation to your civil partnership dissolution financial settlment application. The agreed hourly rate will be dependent on the complexity of the matter.

How Much Is The Court Fee For Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement Order?

  • The court fee for filing civil partnership dissolution financial settlement application in the family court is £255 without consent and £50 with consent which has to be paid at the time of filing the application. Petitioners with very low income may qualify for court fee exemption.

FAQs - Civil Partnership Dissolution

What is civil partnership dissolution?

Civil partnership dissolution in England & Wales is a legal process to end civil parnership between civil partners after the relationship between them has broken down irretrievably. An application for civil partnership dissolution in England & Wales is made using application form D8.

How soon can I get my civil partnership dissolved in England & Wales after registration of my civil partnership?

You can get your civil partnership dissolved in England & Wales only after you have been in civil partnership for at least one year.

If your civil partnership was not consummated, you may be able to apply for annulment of your civil partnership even if you have been in civil partnership for less than a year.

What are the requirements to end civil partnership in England & Wales?

You can end your civil partnership in England & Wales if all of the following are true:

  • you’ve been in civil partnership for over a year
  • your relationship has permanently broken down
  • your civil partnership is legally recognised in England & Wales (including same-sex marriage)
  • Either you or your civil partner is habitually resident in England & Wales

What is a 'clean break' civil partnership?

A clean break civil partnership is where no ongoing financial commitments remain between you and your civil partner. The phrase ‘a clean break’ is particularly used as the opposite of an order where there is ongoing spousal maintenance payable, usually monthly, from one partner to the other.

A clean break is only possible in relation to the financial claims between civil partners. It is not possible to have a clean break in relation to financial obligations towards your children.

In case you and your ex-partner have no assets to divide, you should also apply for a financial settlement order. It’s important to do so, even if you don’t have any assets to divide at the time of the civil partnership dissolution. There’s no guarantee you won’t come into some money in the future and if you haven’t obtained a financial settlement, your ex is still within their legal rights to make a financial claim.

Once a 'clean break' agreement of this kind has been ratified by court order, neither of you will be able to go back to court in the future to ask for maintenance or further transfer of assets. This gives both partners a much greater degree of certainty and allows them to completely disentangle their individual financial affairs.

Can I end civil partnership in England & Wales if I got married abroad?

Yes, you can start divorce proceedings in England provided that you have a valid civil partnership certificate (and certified translation, if the civil partnership certificate is not written in English). The key issue is determining whether the civil partnership is valid and legal in the country within which the ceremony took place, with the local custom being observed. If the civil partnership has been carried out in accordance with the local laws and customs of the country in which it took place, it is usually a valid legal civil partnership.

You should also meet all of the following requirements for ending civil partnership in England & Wales:

  • you’ve been in civil partnership for over a year
  • your relationship has permanently broken down
  • your civil partnership is legally recognised in England & Wales (including same-sex marriage)
  • Either you or your civil partner is habitually resident in England & Wales

What other matters may also arise in civil partnership dissolution proceedings?

Depending on the personal circumstances of the petitioner and the Respondent, the following other matters may also arise in the divorce proceedings:

How long does the civil partnership dissolution process take?

This varies from court to court and from case to case, depending on the complexity of the case. An uncontested civil partnership dissolution with no financial settlement issues can take up to 6 months whereas a contested and complicated civil partnership dissolution can take much longer than 6 months and time would vary depending on the complexity of the matter.

How much does it cost to file a civil partnership dissolution in England?

The court fee for filing a civil partnership dissolution in England & Wales is £550 which needs to be paid at the time of submitting your civil partnership dissolution petition to the family court.

What is difference between uncontested and contested civil partnership dissolution in England?

Uncontested Civil Partnership Dissolution

An uncontested civil partnership dissolution is a dissolution process where the Respondent to the civil partnership dissolution does not defend or contest the ending of civil partnership. It is possible for the Respondent to disagree with the grounds for civil partnership dissolution yet agree to civil partnership dissolution taking place on the grounds that the relationship has irretrievably broken down between the Petitioner and the Respondent.

Contested Civil Partnership Dissolution

A contested civil partnership dissolution is one where the Respondent to the dissolution petition decides to contest or defend the civil partnership dissolution. In other words, Respondent objects to civil partnership dissolution taking place in a contested civil partnership dissolution. A contested civil partnership dissolution is a more complicated procedure and will involve the couple having to attend family court for hearings. In very rare cases, Respondent can succeed in contesting a civil partnership dissolution in England & Wales. In the event of Resondent failing to defend the civil partnership dissolution, the family court is likely to make a legal costs order against the Resondent.

What are grounds for ending civil partnership in England & Wales?

There are 5 grounds for ending civil partnership in England & Wales which are as follows:

  • Adultery - The Petitioner alleges that the Respondent committed adultery and the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably.
  • Unreasonable Behaviour - The Petitioner alleges that the Respondent has behaved unreasonably and the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably.
  • Desertion Of The Petitioner By The Respondent - The petitioner can apply for civil partnership dissolution on the grounds that the Respondent deserted the petitioner more than 2 years ago and the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably.
  • 2 Years Separation And Respondent Consenting To Ending Civil Partnership - Petitioner and Respondent have lived separately for 2 years; Respondent consents to end civil partnership and the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably.
  • 5 Years Separation - Petitioner and Respondent lived separately for 5 years and the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably.

What is a conditional order of dissolution?

A conditional order of dissolution is a document that says that the court does not see any reason why you cannot end civil partnership. You can apply for a conditional order of dissolution if your civil partner does not defend your civil partnership dissolution petition.

What is a final dissolution order?

The final dissolution order is the legal document that ends your civil partnership. You need to wait at least 43 days (6 weeks and 1 day) after the date of the conditional order of dissolution before you can apply for a final dissolution order.

What documentary evidence do I need to apply for civil partnership dissolution?

To apply for a civil partnership dissolution you’ll need:

  • your civil partner’s full name and address
  • your original civil partnership certificate or a certified copy (and a certified translation if it’s not in English)
  • proof of your name change if you’ve changed it since you registered your civil partnership - for example your civil partnership certificate or a deed poll

You must try to find your civil partner’s current address if you do not know it. The court will need it to send them a copy of the civil partnership dissolution petition.

FAQs - Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement

What Assets Are Split In Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement?

The adjustment of assets/finances covered by the financial court order may include the following:

  • property
  • money
  • shares
  • savings
  • pensions
  • debts
  • children/spousal maintenance

Does Partner's Behaviour Affect The Civil Partnership Dissolution Financial Settlement?

Normally, the behaviour of your partner including adultery or unreasonable behaviour does not affect the civil partnership dissolution financial settlement. The grounds for civil partnership dissolution you use to obtain a divorce have no bearing on your financial settlement. Extreme behaviour may be taken into account by the court, for example, if one partner's violence has had a lasting effect on the other. If one partner recklessly or deliberately sabotages the financial position, for example, by spending recklessly or destroying assets, this could also be taken into account.

What is a ‘clean break’ civil partnership dissolution financial settlement?

A clean break civil partnership dissolution financial settlement is where no ongoing financial commitments remain between you and your civil partner. The phrase ‘a clean break’ is particularly used as the opposite of an order where there is ongoing spousal maintenance payable, usually monthly, from one spouse to the other.

A clean break is only possible in relation to the financial claims between civil partners. It is not possible to have a clean break in relation to financial obligations towards your children.

What if I don’t have any assets to split?

In case you and your ex-partner have no assets to divide, you should also apply for a financial settlement. It’s important to do so, even if you don’t have any assets to divide at the time of the civil partnership dissolution. There’s no guarantee you won’t come into some money in the future and if you haven’t obtained a financial settlement, your ex is still within their legal rights to make a financial claim.

Once a 'clean break' agreement of this kind has been ratified by court order, neither of you will be able to go back to court in the future to ask for maintenance or further transfer of assets. This gives both partners a much greater degree of certainty and allows them to completely disentangle their individual financial affairs.

Will any payments I make to my civil partner while we are separated affect the final civil partnership dissolution settlement?

Not usually. It may be unwise to make excessively large payments to your civil partner, because it might be argued that this shows both their need for such payments (or an equivalent transfer of assets) and your ability to pay.

Even so, any financial settlement should take into account the longer-term history of the marriage and future financial prospects.

On the other hand, if your civil partner needs maintenance while you are separated, it would normally be sensible to provide it. Failure to do so is likely to make your civil partner more hostile towards you.

Your civil partner might apply to the court for an interim financial order requiring you to pay an appropriate level of maintenance. Both of these are likely to increase the overall level of ill-feeling - and costs - in reaching a final agreement.

What effect will it have if I move out of the family home before our civil partnership is dissolved?

You will still have the same rights to occupy the home as you had before and can move back in if you choose.

There may be practical problems if, for example, your civil partner changes the locks. While you will be entitled to get back in, it makes sense to ensure that you take anything you may need - such as important documents - with you in the first place.

There may also be other considerations so it is advisable to take advice before moving out.

Are there any precautions I should take during a civil partnership dissolution, for example, to stop my civil partner taking cash from our joint account?

If your civil partner can make withdrawals from a joint account without your agreement, you run the risk that some or all of the money will be taken. You will also be jointly liable for any debts run up on the account.

If you need access to the money or if you suspect that your civil partner may misuse it, you may want to close the account. The same applies to any other form of joint borrowing or spending facility, such as a joint credit card.

However, if you suddenly freeze accounts that your civil partner needs for living expenses, this will create problems. Your civil partner will want you to make appropriate maintenance payments and may apply to the court for an interim financial order.

If your civil partner is the sole owner of the family home, you should apply to the Land Registry to register an interest in the property. This will prevent the house being sold without your consent.

Is our civil partnership dissolution settlement affected if one of us remarries/registers civil partnership or starts cohabiting with a new partner?

If you remarry/register civil partnership without having reached a financial settlement with your former civil partner, you may lose the right to make any financial claim against your former civil partner. He or she will still have the same right to make a financial claim against you as before.

If you have previously reached a clean break settlement, the remarriage or re-registration of civil partnership (or cohabitation) will normally have no effect - you have already made a once and for all agreement.

If you are paying your former civil partner maintenance (this does not include child maintenance), maintenance ceases if the recipient remarries (but not if the recipient merely starts to cohabit).

In any case, if your former civil partner's financial position improves, you can apply to the court to stop paying maintenance or to pay a reduced amount.

If you are receiving maintenance from your former civil partner, you should normally continue to do so after he or she remarries.

How long will it take to sort out our civil partnership dissolution and financial settlement?

Obtaining a civil partnership dissolution typically takes about six months. The process can take longer if anyone fails to deal with the various pieces of paperwork promptly.

How long financial settlement takes depends very much on your relationship with your civil partner and the complexity of your financial affairs. Often, the financial settlement can be negotiated over the same period as the civil partnership dissolution proceedings, and is then confirmed by a consent order.

Where there is an agreed financial outcome, it is possible to obtain a court order embodying the agreement (consent order) and your decree absolute within 6 months from start to finish.

Where an agreement is not reached, it could take between 12 – 18 months to conclude form the date an application for financial settlement is made to the court.

Who pays the legal fees for a civil partnership dissolution financial settlement?

In most cases, both parties will have their own solicitor and will be responsible for their own legal fees. Only in unusual circumstances will the court consider conduct in the proceedings or the process of disclosure as a justification for an order for costs being made against the other party.

While negotiating a financial settlement you each use - and are responsible for paying - your own lawyer. As part of the settlement, however, one of you might negotiate that the other should pay part or all of their legal fees.

You can keep your legal fees down by agreeing as much as possible among yourselves. Fees can mount up if hostile civil partners insist on conducting all negotiations through lawyers while arguing over trivial details. 

What orders can the court make in civil partnership dissolution financial settlement?

The court has power to make orders for a spouse including:-

  • Periodical payments (maintenance or alimony)
  • Secured provision (maintenance that is charged against an asset)
  • Lump sum (a cash payment)
  • Transfer of property (where one legal ownership of an asset is taken away from one civil partner and transferred to the other)
  • (except upon decree of judicial separation) a pension  attachment and a pension sharing order
  • Agreed child maintenance orders, school fees orders and/or top up orders where there is a maximum Child Maintenance Service assessment.

Can money one of us expects to inherit be taken into account in civil partnership dissolution financial settlement?

Usually not unless you are about to receive the inheritance.

Will a pre-civil registration agreement protect my assets if we dissolve our civil partnership?

Pre-civil registration Agreements are not legally binding in the UK but are considered to be pursuasive for the judge to exercise discretion in deciding the financial settlement by giving weight to the pre-civil registration agreement. Pre-Nups, Post Nups and Pre-civil registration agreements cannot exclude the authority of the Court when dealing with financial issues when a marriage or civil partnership irretrievably breaks down. When civil partnership dissolution arises, the court has discretionary powers to distribute assets as the Judge sees is in the best interest of the parties/children/individual circumstances. The pre-civil registration agreement which has been entered into fairly and after taking appropriate legal advice may have persuasive authority for the judge to exercise discretion and give weight to the same in distribution of assets.

The caveat is that while UK courts will recognise pre-civil registration agreements, they also still have the ultimate discretion to ignore any agreement reached if the agreement is deemed to be unfair to any children of the civil partnership.

What can I do if I find out my civil partners has assets or income not disclosed when we agreed the civil partnership dissolution settlement?

You can go to court to get the financial settlement altered.

What can I do if I cannot afford the maintenance payments to my former civil partner?

You can go to court to ask them to change the maintenance order to reflect your circumstances. For example, you might do this if you lose your job and cannot find another one.

Is it possible to reopen a civil partnership dissolution financial settlement?

It is possible to reopen a civil partnership dissolution financial settlement, but extremely rare. In most circumstances, once a financial settlement has been officially recorded in the form of a consent order, the financial ties between the couple are broken and neither of them will be entitled to make financial claims in the future.

However, a precedent set during the case of Barder vs Barder (1987) means that a court may allow a financial settlement to be reopened if something later happens that alters the principle on which the original consent order was made.

Before the court will agree to reopen a settlement, four key factors need to be satisfied:

  • A new event(s) occurs that invalidates the basis, or fundamental assumption, on which the original consent order was made.
  • The new event(s) must have occurred within a relatively short time after the consent order was made.
  • The request to re-open the financial settlement is made soon after the new event occurs.
  • The appeal does not prejudice any rights to assets acquired by third parties (for example, if a house has been sold to an unconnected third party).

Successful applications to reopen financial settlements are rare but they do happen – for example, in the case of Critchell v Critchell (2015).

Am I entitled to spousal maintenance after a civil partnership dissolution?

This will depend on many factors including:

  • How long you were in civil partnership
  • The standard of living you enjoyed before the civil partnership dissolution
  • Your respective financial needs and the financial needs of any dependent children
  • The current earnings of each party
  • The potential earning capacity of each party in the future
  • The contribution made to the civil partnership, either financial or by caring for children and looking after the family home

For example, if a young couple with no children have been married for only a short time and both are working, then it may be fair for them both to leave the civil partnership with no ongoing financial ties and taking with them what they brought into the civil partnership.

If a couple have been in civil partnership for 25 years and by agreement the wife gave up a career to bring up the family at home, while the husband became the sole bread winner, then the wife's future earnings capability may be severely compromised.

In these circumstances the wife should not be penalised for her lack of earnings ability and may be entitled to ongoing spousal maintenance.

How courts deal with pensions in civil partnership dissolution financial settlement?

When a civil partnership ends, courts deal with the pension arrangements in one of 3 ways.

  1. You’re given a percentage share of your former partner’s pension pot. This is known as pension sharing. The money that you get from the pension pot of your former civil partner is then legally treated as your money.
  2. The value of a pension is offset against other assets. This is known as pension offsetting. For example: you keep your pension and your former civil partner keeps the home.
  3. Some of your pension is paid to your former partner. This is known as pension attachment or sometimes pension earmarking. This is like a maintenance payment directly from one person’s pension pot to their former civil partner. Under this arrangement, money from your tax-free lump sum can also go to your former civil partner.

FAQs - Financial Settlement In England After An Overseas Civil Partnership Dissolution

Can I apply for civil partnership dissolution financial settlement in England after my overseas civil partnershio dissolution?

You can apply for financial settlement in England after your overseas civil partnership dissolution if you obtained no financial settlement or the financial settlement made in the other country was inadequate and parties to the civil partnership dissolution have sufficient connection to England.

What are the circumstances under which a financial relief in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution is likely to be a viable option?

In practice, an application for financial relief in England after overseas civil partnership dissolution is most likely to become a viable way to proceed in cases where the foreign civil partnership dissolution was in a jurisdiction where the courts:

  • do not have jurisdiction over foreign property;
  • have no, or under-developed, mechanisms to force financial disclosure;
  • demonstrate favouritism towards nationals over expat spouses;
  • have no mechanism to share pensions;
  • demonstrate favouritism towards those of one religion over another; or
  • have no or under-developed mechanisms to enforce agreements and orders.

Under what provisions of Family Law, an application for financial relief in England can be made after a foreign civil partnership dissolution?

Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (“Part III”) allows a person who has ended civil partnership abroad to apply for financial relief in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution. The purpose of the legislation, known as Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (“Part III”) is to alleviate the adverse consequences of no, or no adequate, financial provision made on civil partnership dissolution by a foreign court in a situation where the parties had substantial connections with England.

What are the two stages for financial relief in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution?

The 2 stages for financial relief in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution are as follows:

First Stage: Sermission Stage

First, the Court’s permission must be obtained to make an application for a financial award. The process begins with a without notice application for permission to proceed. The applicant must show that they have a 'substantial ground' for the application to proceed. The permission stage is designed to filter out weak applications before the respondent is put to the significant costs of defending an application that may be fatally flawed or have little merit.

At the permission stage the applicant must be able to show that they satisfy the jurisdictional requirements and that the legal test set out in in the leading case of Agbaje v Agbaje [2010] has been met.  The threshold is not high but higher than a "good arguable case".

Second Stage: Divorce Financial Settlement Proceedings After Grant Of Permission

After the permission to proceed with financial settlement has been granted by the court in the first stage of the process, the court procedure for second stage is the same as for an in-country civil partnership dissolution financial settlement.

What are the jurisdiction requirements for permission to be granted by the family court for financial relief in Engalnd after an overseas civil partnership dissolution?

In order to bring a claim in England, the parties must have sufficient connection to England as follows:

  • Either party is domiciled in England and Wales at the time of the foreign civil partnership dissolution or at the time of the application; or
  • Either party has been habitually resident in England and Wales for 12 months at the time of the foreign civil partnership dissolution or at the time of the application; or
  • One party has an interest in a dwelling house in England and Wales which had been a matrimonial home (when claims are limited to the value of the house);
  • Other narrow criteria following recent EU legislation.

What are the leal requirements for grant of permission to apply for financial relief in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution?

For Part III proceedings to initiate in England, both the civil partneship as well as dissolution of civil partnership must be legally recognised and valid under English law. Part III proceedings can only be brought if the applicant has not remarried or re-registered his/her civil partnership.

The legal test on an application for permission is set out at paragraph 33 of Agbaje:

"... the principal object of the filter mechanism is to prevent wholly unmeritorious claims being pursued to oppress or blackmail a former spouse. The threshold is not high, but is higher than 'serious issue to be tried' or 'good arguable case' found in other contexts. It is perhaps best expressed by saying that in this context 'substantial' means 'solid'."

Further guidance can be found in Traversa v Freddi [2011] at paragraph 30 and 31:

"It is clear that the section 13 filter is there to exclude plainly unmeritorious cases and, although, in the evaluation of substance, regard must be paid to overall merits, it does not call for a rigorous evaluation of all the circumstances that would be considered once the application has passed through the filter.

At the hearing of the section 13 application the judge will of course be conscious of the fact that, once through the filter, the applicant will have to clear a number of fences that the following sections erect. Unless it is obvious that the applicant will fall at one or more of the fences, his performance at each is better left to the evaluation of the trial judge."

What factors are taken into account by the court when considering permission application for financial relief in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution?

Followring are the factors that the judge must take into account when assessing whether the applicant has satisfied the legal test set out in Agbaje are detailed in s16(2), MFPA 1984:

  • the connection that the parties to the civil partnership have with:
    • England and Wales;
    • the country in which the civil partnership was dissolved or annulled, or in which they were legally separated; and
    • any other country outside England and Wales;
  • any financial benefit that the applicant, or a child of the family, has received, or is likely to receive, in consequence of the civil partnership dissolution, annulment or legal separation, by virtue of any agreement or operation of the law of a country outside England and Wales;
  • where an order has been made by a court in a country outside England and Wales requiring the other party to the civil partnership to make any payment or transfer any property for the benefit of the applicant or a child of the family, the financial relief given by the order and the extent to which the order has been complied with or is likely to be complied with;
  • any right that the applicant has, or has had, to apply for financial relief from the other party to the civil partnership under the law of any country outside England and Wales, and, if the applicant has omitted to exercise that right, the reason for that omission;
  • the availability in England and Wales of any property in respect of which an order in favour of the applicant could be made;
  • the extent to which any order made is likely to be enforceable; and
  • the length of time that has elapsed since the date of the divorceDissolution Of Civil Partnership, annulment or legal separation.

How important is the detailed personal statement of the applicant for an application for permission to apply for financial relief in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution?

The application for permission must be supported by a very detailed personal statement in support of the Application. Such supporting statement of the Applicant should meticulously address:

  • the background of the case,
  • why both the civil partnership and the foreign dissolution of civil partnership is entitled to be recognised as valid in England & Wales; and
  • how the jurisdictional requirements are satisfied.

The statement should demonstrate that the merits tests set out in the legislation and case law have been met. Where available, very full documentary evidence should be exhibited to the statement. The statement in support of the application is also a good opportunity to discuss in detail the overall merits of the case beyond the application for permission.

Do I need country expert report for permission to apply for financial relief in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution?

The court must take into account the financial benefit that has been, or is likely to be, received in the foreign jurisdiction, and if the applicant has the right to apply for relief, and reason why that right has not been exercised. These factors cannot properly be addressed without evidence as to the law of the foreign jurisdiction. The applicant should therefore consider obtaining a short expert report from a specialist in the relevant jurisdiction to be attached to their statement in support of their application for permission.

Why financial settlement claim in England after an overseas civil partnership dissolution?

If you have already ended your civil partnership abroad and obtained no financial settlement or the financial settlement made in the other country was inadequate, you may be able to apply to the English Court for a financial settlement order against your former civil partner. 

The English family courts have the ability to grant financial provision even though a civil partnership dissolution may have been previously pronounced abroad and financial provision already made. The purpose of the legislation, known as Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (“Part III”) is to alleviate the adverse consequences of no, or no adequate, financial provision made on civil partnership dissolution by a foreign court in a situation where the parties had substantial connections with England.

There are still some appalling injustices in some countries abroad which is where the English legislation helps to redress some of these cases. It is an opportunity for fairness and justice for some international families. Part III proceedings can also usefully be used where the law of the country where the civil partnership dissolution occurred does not allow orders to be made in respect of offshore property. It can also be used to obtain a pension sharing order in respect of an English pension in circumstances where other issues are dealt with in the foreign civil partnership dissolution and a foreign civil partnership dissolution pension sharing order will have no validity for the English pension company.

However, it is not for England to act as a court of appeal of other countries with similar approaches to England. Neither is it an opportunity to have two ‘bites of the cherry’.

Where the connection with England is strong, it may be appropriate for there to be such provision as would have been made had the civil partnership dissolution been in England. Where the connection is not so strong and there has already been adequate provision, it will not be appropriate for Part III to be used as a simple "top up".

Divorce & Family Law News

No-fault divorce to start in autumn 2021

Couples seeking a no-fault divorce will have to wait until autumn 2021 even though proposed legislation removing fault from the divorce process has reached the finishing line of its parliamentary journey.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill concluded its passage through the House of Commons yesterday. It will return to the House of Lords to consider an amendment before receiving Royal assent. However, lord chancellor Robert Buckland told MPs that the bill’s reforms will not come into force on Royal assent ‘because time needs to be allowed for careful implementation’.
Buckland said: ‘At this early stage, we are working towards an indicative timetable of implementation in autumn 2021.’

However, family lawyers are delighted to see the bill reach the end of its parliamentary journey. The Law Society said ‘no-fault’ divorce will bring divorce law into the 21st century.
Jo Edwards, head of family at London firm Forsters, said: ‘Along with most family lawyers, and indeed the general public, I was thrilled to see the bill conclude its passage in parliament this week after 30 years of campaigning by Resolution and others and, in recent years, many false starts. Despite vocal last-minute attempts by some backbench MPs to derail the bill, we finally have the prospect of a more civilised, dignified divorce process fit for the 21st century.

‘The fact that couples will be able to petition for divorce jointly is a hugely important step symbolically and the introduction of a minimum overall timeframe shows that this is not the "quickie divorce" that some have suggested.  Because the detail of the rules around the new process, as well as court forms and the online portal, will need to be looked at in light of the new legislation, it is not likely that no-fault divorces will be a reality in England and Wales until late 2021 or even early 2022. For the 100,000 or so couples who divorce each year, they can't come a day too soon.’ READ MORE FROM SOURCE

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