A reader asks how he might go about legally separating from his civil partner after a number of years of separation, the only problem the partner is uncontactable. We asked the lawyers for their advice.

How to get a Civil Dissolution

Dear Legal Clinic

“I’ve entered into a civil partnership about ten years ago with a guy from Poland and have since lost contact with him. I have tried for a number of years now to track him down as I would like to dissolve our partnership. As I can’t locate the guy and believe he has moved back to Poland, is there a way I can dissolve our Civil Partnership with him?

Any help would be much appreciated.”


Grayfords‘ Megan Bennie write,

Dear James,
Thank you for your question. Your situation may sound rare but it’s actually more common than you might think. In today’s increasingly international world, it’s not uncommon for someone to move back to their home city or country when a relationship breaks down.

You say you’ve tried to locate your partner for a number of years. The easiest way for you to obtain a dissolution of your civil partnership is on the basis of 5 years’ separation (dissolution is the almost exact equivalent for civil partnerships of a divorce for marriages – the forms and procedures are the same). It sounds like you might be close to the 5-year point or have already reached it. The advantage of basing the dissolution on 5 years’ separation is that you don’t need the consent of the other person. If you were to base the dissolution on 2 years’ separation you would need written consent from your partner to proceed.

The most sensible way forward is for you to petition for a dissolution based on 5 years’ separation and use your partner’s last known address on the forms. You can write to the court to submit the forms and include some information about your attempts to locate your partner. The court is likely to accept the petition as long as your attempts are genuine, sensible attempts – you don’t have to take extreme measures or go to the ends of the earth but the court does want to see you’ve at least tried.

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Once the dissolution petition is sent out – one copy to you and one to your partner’s last known address – you should apply to dispense with service upon them, in other words, do away with the requirement for papers to be successfully received by your partner. You complete a D13 form which covers the steps you’ve taken to try and find your partner, including attempts to contact them through an employer, family, etc. where possible and the court makes a decision as to whether or not it can dispense with the service requirement. There is a small additional fee of around £50 for this application (on top of the £550 dissolution fee) and it adds a little extra time to the process. However, compared to staying married until your partner resurfaces, if they ever do, it may be a small price to pay.

You can download all the forms you need for the dissolution procedure, including the D8 application to start the process and the D13 form to dispense with service, at http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/.

A lot of websites offer you an “online divorce” but unfortunately, many of them simply charge you to complete and download the forms you can already download for free from the website mentioned above. I strongly recommend that, even if you start the dissolution process yourself, you take advice from a solicitor on the D13 form so that you can dispense with service quickly and easily. A solicitor will know the kinds of things you need to put down to satisfy the court you’ve done all you can.

I wish you the best of luck James and if you do need a hand with any aspect of the dissolution process, don’t hesitate to call us, or any other solicitor. If cost is an issue, you may wish to speak with your local Citizens Advice Bureau or contact the Personal Support Unit at a local court. They can’t give you legal advice in the same way a lawyer can, but they can help with forms and procedures.

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About the author: Grayfords
At Grayfords we aim to provide a transparent, cost-effective service which is tailored to each individual client. No two relationships are identical and no two relationship breakdowns are either. We can provide confidential advice on ending a marriage or partnership, property and children. You can call 0800 222 9500 to book a free initial telephone appointment no matter where you are located.