The Same-Sex Divorce Process

19 Oct 2021 | Claire Andrews
same sex divorce

Table of Contents

What Happens When a Same-Sex Relationship Breaks Down?

Recent news of Rylan Clark-Neal and Dan Neal’s divorce after failing to salvage their six-year marriage shows that sadly, sometimes things go wrong and couples decide to end their relationships. 

For married couples to do this, they need to apply for divorce in the usual way. The process is different for civil partners who need to apply for a dissolution of their civil partnership.

How do you get divorced as a same-sex couple?

In the eyes of the law, same-sex marriage is exactly the same as opposite-sex marriage. When the relationship breaks down, either party can apply for a divorce on the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. To prove this, the applicant has to show:

  • Unreasonable behaviour 
  • Two years desertion 
  • Two years of separation (and the other party consents to the divorce)
  • Five years separation (no consent required)

The main difference between a same-sex divorce and an opposite-sex divorce is that a same-sex couple can only rely on four facts when applying for a divorce, not five. This is because ‘adultery’ has a specific legal definition including heterosexual sex. 

You can still use the infidelity of your spouse as a reason for the divorce, however, you would just use it as an example of unreasonable behaviour. 

However, the new no-fault divorce laws are soon to come into effect. There will no longer be a requirement to state one of the four (or five for an opposite-sex divorce) facts and instead, either one or both spouses make a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The statement will be conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down and the divorce can then progress in the usual way (with slightly different terminology). The new legislation is due to come into effect in Spring 2022. Read our step-by-step guide on getting divorced.

The process for divorce is exactly the same regardless of whether you are a same-sex couple or an opposite sex-couple. To start proceedings, the couple must have been married for at least a year and one party must file a divorce petition via the online divorce portal.  

How do you dissolve a civil partnership?

You end a civil partnership in England and Wales by applying for a ‘dissolution order’. The process is virtually identical to the divorce process. You’ll need to have been in the civil partnership for at least 12 months before applying for a dissolution, and you’ll have to prove that the relationship has broken down irretrievably using one of the four reasons listed above. 

If your partner agrees to the dissolution of your civil partnership, the court will review the papers and make a Conditional Order of dissolution. The conditional order is like a Decree Nisi [link] in divorce. It shows that you are legally entitled to end the civil partnership.

After the Conditional Order is made, you must wait six weeks and one day (43 days) before you can apply for a Final Order. This legally ends the civil partnership in the same way that a Decree Absolute legally ends a marriage.

Claire Andrews is a specialist divorce lawyer with a particular emphasis on complex high net worth cases often involving a trust element.  She is also featured in The Legal 500 as a recommended lawyer.

To speak with Claire, please call, or complete an online enquiry form.

Share this article


Contact Claire Andrews today

For a free initial conversation call 0207 485 8811

Email us Send us an email and we’ll get back to you

    • "Claire Andrews is an associate to watch. Tenacious, diligent, professional and astute. She is very impressive."

      Legal 500 2021

    Divorce InsightsVIEW ALL

    1. Hampstead Hill Gardens

      Financial Remedy Orders Explained

      It is common for disagreements to arise over the finances during a divorce, even if you are on good terms...

      Read more
    2. Final Order

      What is a Final Order?

      The introduction of no-fault divorces brought about a number of changes to the divorce process in England and Wales. One...

      Read more
    3. field of flowers

      What is Parental Alienation?

      Sometimes, a child may turn against one of their parents due to the other parent’s manipulation or influence. This...

      Read more
    4. divorced man with empty wallet

      My spouse is going bankrupt. Will it affect...

      Bankruptcy is on the rise in the UK. In 2022, more than 1 in 10 businesses reported a moderate-to-severe risk of insolvency. More...

      Read more
    5. spousal maintenance

      What is Spousal Maintenance ?

      Spousal Maintenance Spousal maintenance is a legal obligation to provide financial support to a former spouse after the marriage or...

      Read more
    6. most common reasons why couples get divorced

      The 6 Most Common Reasons Why Couples Get Divorced

      What are the most common reasons that couples get divorced? Following the UK’s transition to a no-fault divorce system,...

      Read more
    7. signing contract

      What is a Conditional Order?

      The introduction of no-fault divorces in England and Wales removed the need to assign blame for the breakdown of a...

      Read more
    8. man signing paperwork

      What is a consent order?

      Most divorcing couples agree on how their finances will be divided without going to court. A consent order is what...

      Read more
    9. child maintenance

      Child Maintenance for High Earners

      How much should be paid? When separating or divorcing parents cannot agree the amount of child maintenance to be paid, (...

      Read more
    10. 25.7.2023

      Family Dynamics: A Factor In Child Arrangements Cases

      In proceedings involving children, the parents should consider the impact their behaviour towards each other may have on how the...

      Read more
    11. rubber stamp

      Approving Consent Order In High Value Divorce Case...

      The case of Bogolyubov v Bogolyubov The best course of action for divorcing couples is to agree on a financial...

      Read more
    12. union jack

      Does Divorce Jurisdiction Matter?

      I am a family law practitioner with a large client following in England and in Gibraltar. I often have to...

      Read more
    13. two people walking

      Breadwinner or homemaker in divorce. Does it matter?

      Breadwinner vs Homemaker Divorce Rights When it comes to deciding how wealth is split in a divorce, English courts do...

      Read more
    14. lady with two children

      What is Parental Responsibility?

      Understanding Parental Responsibility Parental responsibility is the legal term used to describe parents’ duties and responsibilities for their children. These...

      Read more
    15. couple holding hands

      Are trusts protected from divorce?

      Can trusts protect an inheritance from your spouse? A trust is a separate legal entity. Neither spouse owns its assets. ...

      Read more
    16. cube cafe camden

      Is a limited company protected from divorce?

      Is my spouse entitled to half of my business? If you are involved in running a limited company, then it...

      Read more
    17. man looking out

      How is a pension split in a divorce?

      Pensions and Divorce In a divorce, pensions are taken into account together with all other financial assets. Once all assets...

      Read more
    18. Camden house red door

      Who gets the house in a divorce?

      How is a house divided in a UK divorce? For most people thinking about getting a divorce, one of the...

      Read more
    19. Prenup agreement and gavel

      Judge ignores pre-nuptial agreement but factors in non-matrimonial...

      Case Law One of the reasons I am still passionate about family law, after 20 years in the field, is that...

      Read more
    20. pension pot

      Pension sharing on divorce

      What is the new procedure for pension sharing? Pensions are one of the biggest assets of a marriage, yet many...

      Read more
    21. door knocker

      What is a transfer of equity?

      Transfer of equity in divorce Transfer of equity refers to the process of transferring part or all of a property...

      Read more
    22. people holding cups

      Do You Have To Go To Court For...

      If your divorce is uncontested and there are no disputes over issues such as what happens to the marital home...

      Read more
    23. Two keys with splitted key ring

      Capital Gains Tax on Divorce

      Proposed Capital Gains Tax Rule Changes Could Reduce Stress for Divorcing Couples The government has proposed a number of changes...

      Read more
    24. woman hand open empty purse

      My ex has cut me off during divorce

      Can my spouse cut me off financially? Unfortunately, it is far too common that when clients say it’s over,...

      Read more