What are the reasons to end a civil partnership?

Civil partnerships can break down for many reasons. But to bring your civil partnership to a legal end, you will need to prove that your relationship has ‘irretrievably’ broken down.  

How do I end a civil partnership?

You can end your civil partnership by applying for what is known as a ‘dissolution order’. There are several conditions you must meet before you can apply to dissolve your civil partnership, including:
  • You have been in your civil partnership for at least a year
  • The UK is the permanent home of you or your civil partner
  • You have your original civil partnership certificate, or a certified copy
You can apply for a dissolution order online on GOV.UK.

Reasons to end a civil partnership

You will need to prove that your civil partnership is broken beyond repair before you can bring it to a legal end. On your dissolution order, you will need to provide a reason why your relationship is over. There are four scenarios where you can legally claim that your relationship is ‘irretrievably’ broken:
  1. Your partner has behaved unreasonably
  2. You have been separated for two years and you both want to end the civil partnership
  3. You have been separated for five years and one of you wants to dissolve the partnership
  4. Your partner deserted you two years ago

Unreasonable behaviour

To use unreasonable behaviour as a reason for ending your civil partnership, you must demonstrate that your civil partner’s behaviour goes beyond what anyone can reasonably be expected to put up with and has made living together impossible. This could range from criminal behaviour to things that make you feel uncomfortable living together, such as:
  • Your partner is rarely home
  • Your partner excludes you from social events
  • Your partner is irresponsible with money
  • Your partner is emotionally distant

Bear in mind that you will need to write on your dissolution order a specific reason why you think that what they’ve done is unreasonable. Your partner needs to agree with your reason, so only use something that they would accept to be true.  

You are separated

If you and your partner have lived apart for two years, you can apply to dissolve your civil partnership, provided you both give your consent. You don’t need your partner’s consent if you’ve lived apart for more than five years.
Living apart doesn’t necessarily mean that you have been living in separate households. You can still claim to be living apart so long as you’re not living together as a couple. For example, you don’t share meals, you don’t sleep together, and you don’t share finances.
There are six months where you and your partner can get back together again without it affecting your claim to have been separated for at least two years. So, you can still claim to have been separated for two years even if you broke up with your partner, got back together again for six months, and then separated again.


If your partner left you without your consent over two years ago, you could claim desertion on your dissolution order. As with separation, there are six months where you can get back together again without it going towards the two years you need to claim desertion. So, if your partner left you, returned for six months, and then left you again, you can still count it as desertion. However, desertion requires you to prove that your partner left you without your consent, so you may find it easier to claim unreasonable behaviour instead.

Is adultery grounds for ending a civil partnership?

Adultery cannot be cited as grounds to end a civil partnership. This is because adultery, under UK law, involves having sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex. Nevertheless, sexual unfaithfulness from your partner with someone of the same sex would usually meet the criteria for unreasonable behaviour.

Adam Rivers

Adam creates supportive, easy to read guides for The Law Superstore. He specialises in family law, helping people through divorce, child custody arrangements, and other relationship issues.

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