THE DISSOLUTION OF A CIVIL PARTNERSHIP19th Apr 2012
The recent Court of Appeal decision in the civil partnership case of Mr Gallagher and Mr Lawrence highlights the way in which these cases are dealt with by the Courts, and is the first substantial appeal arising from the dissolution of a civil partnership.
Civil Partnership is the formal registration of a same-sex relationship and the question of whether to move to permit same sex marriage, as a step on from this arrangement, is the subject matter of topical debate too.
There have been relatively few reported cases dealing with financial orders arising when civil partners separate and so this, combined with the substantial assets available for distribution of about £4million, meant that this case was bound to hit headlines.
The case highlights that financial orders arising after a civil partnership break-up will be decided along the same lines as for a heterosexual divorce, and cases referred to by the judges in making the decision in this case included some of those previous and newsworthy cases of high profile divorces.
Although their civil partnership was formed in 2007, the overall length of the relationship was taken to include the period of their settled relationship over some 11 years and 7 months. The length of the relationship overall was one of the factors in determining the case, and the final settlement includes a pension sharing order and lump sum award. The effect of the appeal was to reduce the lump sum payment payable to Mr Gallagher by £200,000, to £350,000.
The law applicable to this type of case is the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which uses language identical to the corresponding law applicable to divorce, albeit that that law as amended dates originally from 1973. It reinforces the fact that there is no discrimination in this area as to the type of relationship whether formalised by marriage or civil partnership.
Resolving financial disputes at the end of a relationship whatever its characteristics can be a time consuming and stressful process. Specialist advice as to the options including those available to keep disputes out of the Courts is essential.