Same Sex Divorce and Dissolution of Civil Partnerships


1 June 2021

By Farhad Islam

The breakdown of any relationship is always difficult and a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership is rarely painless. Same sex females are twice as likely to divorce than same sex males but there is no clear explanation as to why but in any event, gay divorce or dissolution is the same procedure as for a divorcing heterosexual couple.

Divorce or dissolution is an application to the Court made on a standard Petition for Divorce or Dissolution and will only be granted by a Court if it is satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and there is no chance of reconciliation.

Any reference to ‘marriage’ and to ‘divorce’ in the Petition include same sex marriage and divorce follows the majority of the provisions of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which came into force on 13th March 2014.  Civil partners have been able to convert their civil partnership to marriage under the same legislation.

The irretrievable breakdown of any marriage is proved by one of five facts, specifically:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Two year separation by desertion
  • Two year separation with the consent of both parties
  • Five year separation

Adultery can only be relied upon by a Petitioner who is married (therefore not in a civil partnership) and then only between members of the opposite sex.  This is the only difference between same sex marriages and heterosexual marriages because at this time, the current law defines adultery as being sexual intercourse with someone else of the opposite sex and until such time as the law catches up with societal changes, then this ground is not able to be relied upon as the reason for the breakdown of a relationship in same sex marriages.

The only reason for this difference is that the laws governing divorce in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 were made prior to laws decriminalising gay sex.  Same sex couples obtained equal rights to adoption and marriage in 2014 so whilst the law is slow to catch up, and ‘adultery’ remains unaltered, infidelity within a relationship can be deemed to be unreasonable behaviour so there are adequate grounds for a divorce or dissolution to proceed in the very same way as a heterosexual divorce would.

Should you require legal advice as to how to proceed with a divorce or a dissolution, Gepp Solicitors will endeavour to deal with matters sensitively and swiftly.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.