In this week's blog, we explore the issues surrounding the ending of a civil partnership.

The dilemma:

“My partner and I entered into a civil partnership in 2008, and unfortunately we’re now at the point of splitting up after I discovered that she was being unfaithful.  I know that we need to formally dissolve our partnership, just as a heterosexual couple would divorce, but I want to be certain of the options. We don’t have kids, but we do have a house that we have bought together and lots of joint possessions. I’m just a bit concerned about financial matters – I earn much more than my partner, and I have a good pension.  She works part-time for a charity, although her hours vary. Am I going to end up paying her off? After all, it was her that went off with someone else, and that was bad enough. Could you advise how best to protect myself, and get through this period of my life relatively (financially) unscathed?”

Divorce Doctor Roger Mackenzie says:

You will understandably be feeling extremely hurt and angry after discovering your partner has been unfaithful to you.

It can then be difficult to be told that the reasons for your relationship ending do not usually have a bearing on the financial arrangements you will have to reach, particularly if it seems you may have to provide financial support or make a payment to your lower earning partner.

You are right to say you will eventually need to have your civil partnership dissolved. The process itself is quite straightforward, but before getting to that stage, you and your partner will need to agree a fair division of the partnership property.

Partnership property is everything you acquired between the start of your civil partnership and the date you separated, less any debts either of you have accrued.

You will need to try and agree what should happen to the house; potentially either of you could take it on in your own right as part of a settlement, or you may decide it has to be sold and the proceeds shared accordingly. You don’t say if either of you paid a deposit towards the purchase from funds you had prior to entering the civil partnership. If so, there can sometimes be an argument that the source of funds should be taken into account in arriving at a fair split of the property.

The pension you have accrued during the period of civil partnership will usually have to be valued and taken into account in determining the total partnership property. This value can be offset against liquid cash or you can enter into a pension sharing arrangement with your ex partner where an agreed amount would be transferred from your pension fund into a scheme set up for your ex-partner.

In the short term you will also have to try and agree who pays for costs relating to the house and it may be that in the short term you could have to pay some of your income to her by way of financial support to meet her day to day needs if she can demonstrate that she does not have enough income to get by on.

It might therefore be in your interests to try and agree a division of assets quickly as your obligation to provide financial support will typically end when you sign an agreement and have the civil partnership dissolved.

Roger Mackenzie is a divorce and family law expert at Turcan Connell