Being in a civil partnership is much like being in a marriage, but are there key differences in the way they’re brought to an end?

Divorce and civil partnership dissolution are very similar processes with a few key differences. Thankfully, finding a divorce solicitor who provides both of these services is relatively easy in 2021, as civil partnerships are now recognised on the same level as marriage.

In this post, we’re going to discuss if civil partnerships are the same as marriages by law, and how divorce and civil partnership dissolution differ. We’ll then discuss what the future looks like for these two processes.

Is Civil Partnership the Same as Marriage?

Before we discuss the difference between ending a civil partnership and a divorce, we’re going to briefly look at who can enter into a civil partnership and how it differs from marriage.

Civil partnerships were originally introduced for same-sex couples under the terms of the Civil Partnership Act 2004. This is because they weren’t yet allowed to be married in the same way as opposite-sex couples.

However, in February 2018 the governments of the United Kingdom and Scotland decided to expand civil partnerships. These laws were passed on 2 December 2019, allowing opposite-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships.

Couples entering into a civil partnership are granted the same property rights, tax exemption on inheritance tax, social security, pension benefits, parental responsibility over children, and tenancy rights that are afforded to married couples. They’re essentially the same thing under a different name.

With both marriage and civil partnerships being available to same-sex and opposite-sex couples, the choice of which one to go with is down to personal preference.

What’s the Difference Between Divorce and Ending a Civil Partnership?

Wedding ring

Despite civil partnerships and marriage being practically identical, there is a slight difference between the way they’re dissolved. Marriages are typically ended by divorce, whereas a civil partnership can only be ended through dissolution.

To end your marriage or civil partnership you have to be in one for at least a year. The reasons for divorce and dissolution are both ‘irretrievable breakdown of the relationship’, however there is a slight difference.

Whereas irretrievable breakdown of a marriage covers:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • You have lived apart for 2 years and you agree to a divorce
  • You have lived apart for 5 years

Civil partnership breakdown doesn’t include adultery. However, if adultery causes the irretrievable breakdown of the civil partnership, it can still be used as a de-facto reason to end the partnership.

That one tiny detail is the only difference between the divorce of a marriage and the dissolution of a civil partnership. Other than the adultery issue, everything else is the same.

What Does the Future Look Like for Divorce and Civil Partnership Dissolution?


For those of you who haven’t heard about ‘no-fault divorce’, it is essentially an overhaul of the reasons why someone is allowed to get divorced.

Under the current laws, any married couples wishing to divorce, or civil partners looking to dissolve their partnership amicably, have to prove unreasonable behaviour. This means that someone has to take the blame.

For this very reason, the UK government are going to implement the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 in autumn 2021. This legislation will introduce ‘no fault divorce’ where neither party has to show or prove wrongdoing on the part of the other.

Instead, both partners have the option to make a joint application for divorce or dissolution on the basis that they agree the relationship ‘irretrievably broke down’. This puts both partners in the driver’s seat instead of one feeling like they’re responding to legal proceedings.

So, what does this mean for divorce and civil partnership dissolution?

‘No fault divorce’ basically erases the whole adultery condition for ending a marriage which, in turn, makes divorce and civil partnership dissolution exactly the same.

With divorce being the same as dissolution, the only real difference between marriage and civil partnerships will literally be the name. The only reason to get one will be to either join under the eyes of God or do so in a secular fashion.

Will Divorce and Civil Partnership Dissolution be the Same by the End of this Year?

In this post, we’ve managed to cover how marriages and civil partnerships are the same, what the difference between divorce and dissolution is, and what the future of these processes will be by the end of this year.

Despite the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act being passed in 2020, and the expectation that it will be implemented in 2021, it might not come around quite so quickly.

The Court Service still needs to create all the regulations and systems needed to put the Act into effect. So, if you’re waiting for no fault divorce to come into effect before you separate, don’t hold your breath because, as with many government-enacted policies, this one could still take a while.