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This article was published on October 19th, 2023
At Thorneycroft Solicitors, we understand the challenges that come with separation and divorce. This is among the most challenging experiences you will encounter in your lifetime, and for same-sex couples, these journeys may have unique complexities. Thorneycroft Solicitors is one of the leading divorce solicitors in the North West, and we’re committed to providing unwavering support throughout the process. In this blog, we offer insights to help you understand the legal considerations of same-sex divorce in today’s landscape…
The legal landscape for same-sex couples in the UK has significantly evolved in recent years, providing equal rights and recognition to these couples in the context of marriage and divorce. A key milestone in this evolution was the introduction of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act of 2013, which opened the doors for same-sex couples to legally marry under civil marriage laws. Before this, same-sex couples could only enter into civil partnerships, which provided legal recognition of the relationship.
The 2013 act put same-sex marriages on the same legal footing as heterosexual couples. This equality extends to various aspects of life, including family law, property rights, and divorce. This means the process is the same for same-sex and heterosexual couples, and the same legal considerations apply.
In previous years, divorce proceedings relied on fault-based grounds for the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Typically, this breakdown was established as one of five factors:
However, in the eyes of the law, adultery in a same-sex marriage is not necessarily a ground for divorce, as the law defines adultery as “sexual intercourse between a man and a woman” and does not extend to activity between those of the same sex.
In April 2022, the landscape of UK divorce law underwent a significant transformation. No-fault divorce was introduced as a viable option for couples seeking separation, marking a pivotal moment in family law, as it allows for divorce to be granted without the need for blame. Couples looking to part ways can now jointly apply for divorce, streamlining the process and rendering it more straightforward and amicable, especially for those who can mutually agree on the divorce terms. Fortunately, this also means that the divorce process is now identical for both same-sex and heterosexual couples.
In the UK, same-sex couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships since 2004. Although civil partnerships and marriage are distinct legal arrangements, they carry the same legal rights and responsibilities. Consequently, dissolving a civil partnership follows the same legal process as divorcing a marriage.
When a civil partnership breaks down, the legal process for dissolution comes into play. To initiate the process, you must apply to the court, providing evidence of the relationship’s irreparable breakdown. The application is forwarded to your former partner, who has 14 days to acknowledge it. Upon completion, you can apply for a Conditional Order, which shows that you are legally entitled to end the civil partnership, like a Decree Nisi. After a waiting period of 6 weeks, you can then apply for a Final Order. A Final Order legally ends the partnership, similar to how an Decree Absolute ends a marriage.
Throughout the process, the same factors must be considered as they would be during a divorce, including financial arrangements and the well-being of any children involved.
One of the most important aspects of divorce is the resolution of financial matters and encompasses several considerations, including:
Throughout the process, the court will consider several factors to determine what is fair for both parties. These factors include financial and non-financial contributions made throughout the marriage by both parties, economic circumstances and prospects post-divorce, and the needs of any children involved.
As the divorce proceedings begin, it is paramount to keep the well-being of children at the forefront of all decisions. While divorce can be a challenging and emotionally taxing process for the couple, its impact on their children largely depends on how it is managed. Throughout the process, several things must be considered.
An essential aspect to consider when agreeing on arrangements for children during the process is the concept of parental responsibility. This is an important consideration in all divorces, and same-sex couples are no exception. Parental responsibility reflects the rights and responsibilities each party holds for the children. Parental responsibility automatically arises in various situations, such as:
As families navigate the challenges brought about by separation and divorce, the court will make some vital decisions concerning the children involved. This will include determining where they will live and how they will share their time with both parents.
When determining these child arrangements, the court considers several factors, including the children’s needs, the quality of parental relationships and, as appropriate, the court also respects and considers the wishes of the children.
Recognising all of these factors is crucial for both parents. A child-centred divorce focuses on the well-being of the children during this transition, fostering a supportive environment as they adapt to this new reality.
Divorce is a complex process, but it doesn’t have to be acrimonious. Seeking legal advice from a qualified family solicitor can help same-sex couples navigate the divorce process in a way that is fair and respectful to both parties. They can help you understand your rights and explore the options available. The divorce process can often become more convoluted due to confusing and contradictory advice, but our expert family solicitors have recently broken down the divorce process to provide some further guidance – you can read it here.
Thorneycroft Solicitors is here to help, and our specialist divorce solicitors can provide unwavering support, guidance and professional advice on all aspects of the process to help you make the right decisions for you and your family’s future.
If you’re considering a divorce and would like some further advice as to how we can help you navigate this process, contact us today. Call our expert team at 0800 1979345, or fill out our simple enquiry form, and we’ll be in touch.