At Paul J Watson Solicitor, we understand that the breakdown of a civil partnership is a difficult and sensitive time. You can be sure that we provide all our clients with sympathetic and independent advice, guiding you through the separation process.
Our Family Team are all members of Resolution, and we therefore encourage settlement of cases in a non-confrontational way where at all possible. That does not mean that we will not fight your case in court if this is needed.
Why choose Paul J Watson Solicitor?
· Our experienced and dedicated team will fight your case, helping you to negotiate and mediate where possible;
· We have two fully qualified solicitors, who have in excess of 7 years’ experience each;
· Free initial telephone consultation with our solicitor to assess your case;
· We are very proactive in progressing cases as quickly as possible and undertake most of our correspondence by email, considerably speeding up the process;
· Legal Aid is still available in some cases and we undertake Legal Aid work;
· Competitive rates and fixed fees are available if you are ineligible for Legal Aid.
We provide a free initial consultation for all clients. If you would like to contact our Family Solicitors please call on 01642 293427. Alternatively, complete the Contact Form, providing your contact details and a brief outline of your case, and we will contact you.
In the meantime, we have included some information about the separation process, including some frequently asked questions.
What do I do if my civil partnership breaks down?
If your civil partnership has broken down and you want to achieve the legal equivalent of a divorce, then this process is known as “dissolution of a civil partnership”. The process involved is much the same as the divorce process and we can deal with such a case for you. To obtain dissolution of your civil partnership, you must have been in a registered civil partnership or a recognised foreign relationship for at least 12 months. You must provide evidence that your partnership has broken down irretrievably, using one of the following facts;-
· Your partner has behaved unreasonably to such an extent that you can no longer be reasonably expected to live with them.
· Your partner has deserted you and will not return.
· You both agree to the dissolution and have lived separate lives for a period of at least two years.
· Your partner does not consent to the dissolution, but you have lived separate lives for a period of at least five years.
Living apart usually means in separate households, although there are sometimes cases where the parties still live in the same house, but essentially lead separate lives i.e. they do not share a bed, do not eat together etc.
If the Court is satisfied that your grounds for dissolution are sufficient, then a Conditional Dissolution Order will be granted. Six weeks and a day after that Order, you can apply to the Court for the final Dissolution Order.
What information does my solicitor need?
We need to obtain as much background information as possible so that we can fully assess your circumstances and grounds for dissolution. Whether you would like to do this by telephone, email or in an appointment, you will need to provide the following information;-
· Why you would like to apply for dissolution.
· The date upon which you and your partner separated (or the approximate month and year if you do not know the exact date).
· The names and ages of any children who are part of the family.
· The children’s current living arrangements and your proposals for the future in this regard.
· What contact you/your partner currently have with the children.
· Whether there is a marital home and if so, whether it is owned in the parties’ joint names. An approximate value of the property would also be helpful, together with details of the value of any mortgage.
· A list of your assets, savings, income and pension, together with those of your partner (if you know them).
· Details of any ongoing problems, such as substance abuse or gambling debts.
· Details of any incidents of domestic abuse.
· Your original civil partnership certificate.
· Any other relevant documents, such as letters from your partner’s solicitors.
What if I do not want to dissolve my civil partnership?
If you do not wish to apply for a Dissolution Order at this stage or if you have not been separated for a period in excess of 12 months, then instead you could apply for a Separation Order.
To apply for a Separation Order, you do not need to be living separately from your civil partner, but with that exception, you do still need to prove one of the facts given above in order to apply successfully for a Separation Order.
Please note that because your civil partnership is not actually dissolved by way of a Separation Order, neither you nor your former partner will be able to register another civil partnership until you have obtained a Dissolution Order.
What if there are children of the family?
In exactly the same way as in divorce proceedings, the Court will only dissolve a civil partnership if it is satisfied that proper arrangements have been made for the children of the family. Those with parental responsibility for the children must say how they will be cared for in the future, what contact arrangements will be put in place for contact with the other partner etc.
Where children are involved in a relationship breakdown, your children’s welfare should come before anything else. It is very important that the children should not become involved in the proceedings and that they are not encouraged to take sides. You should carefully consider what you intend to tell the children about your separation and you can find excellent resources on the Resolution website http://www.resolution.org.uk
Disputes between you and your partner
Our Solicitors are committed to helping you resolve matters as amicably and cost effectively as possible, without the need to go to Court. Resolution has a Code of Practice to which all Resolution lawyers required to comply. The Code encourages the parties to resolve their differences out of Court, avoiding the need for costly, stressful court battles.
By keeping communications between you and your partner polite and non-confrontational, you can keep down the legal costs, cause less heartache for you and your children and allow you to deal with the dissolution of your civil partnership more easily, allowing you to get on with the rest of your life.
We would therefore encourage you to settle any disputes in relation to the separation, which typically involve finances, property or issues relating to the children, by one of the following methods;-
· Between you and your partner directly. Negotiating between the parties directly is obviously going to be the cheapest option, but not everyone remains on good terms. You should still ask us for legal advice on any terms that you do agree with your partner direct before making any final decisions.
· Through mediation. A trained independent third party would meet with you and your partner face to face. The mediator will help to identify those issues on which you cannot agree and will help you to try to reach an agreement. If you can reach agreement, then the mediator will prepare a summary to send to us. Once both parties have received legal advice, we can convert the agreement into a legally binding document.
· Through collaborative law. Both parties and their solicitors meet face to face, instead of writing letters, to see if an agreement can be reached by negotiation. This is a relatively new process and you can find more information on the Resolution website; www.resolution.org.uk.
· Through negotiation via solicitors. Obviously, each party’s solicitor is focused on their own client’s interests and the outcome of negotiations usually depends on what solicitors would expect the Court to decide at the end of a hearing, based upon the circumstances of your case. If negotiations by this method are exhausted, then an application would need to be made to the Court for it to make a decision, which can be a lengthy and costly process. It is for this reason that court proceedings should be avoided if at all possible.
How much will it cost?
The cost of obtaining dissolution will largely depend upon how complex the case is and how far you and your partner can come to an agreement. For example, if both parties agree to dissolution and there are no issues such as financial or property matters to resolve, then you can instruct us to act for you on our fixed fee scheme. The fixed costs are £650 plus VAT as Applicant and £325 plus VAT as Respondent. Court fees will also apply.
If the case is complex and cannot be settled out of Court, then the costs can run into thousands of pounds. This is one of the reasons why we encourage clients to undertake negotiation outside of the Courts. In complex cases, our charging rates are £175 per hour, plus VAT.
You should not only think about costs however; the involvement of a solicitor who is approachable and sympathetic should also be of concern and we strive to achieve the highest levels of client care.
How long will it take for the dissolution to be finalised?
Usually, dissolution takes 4-8 months, from start to finish, assuming that the case is straightforward and is not defended by your partner. As you may appreciate, the process varies vastly from case to case and can be affected by simple factors such as how quickly you or your partner deals with paperwork. Finances and property issues often take much longer to resolve, particularly if the case has to go to Court.
The information that we have given is intended to be a basic outline of the process involved. You should still seek legal advice regarding your specific case.