First the civil partnerships, now the civil dissolutions

Fourfold increase in number of same-sex couples breaking up

In terms of break-ups and heartache, gay couples are starting to catch up with their straight counterparts. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show a big fall in civil partnerships and a sharp increase in same-sex dissolutions.

The number of couples entering a civil partnership has dropped 18 per cent – from 8,728 in 2007 to 7,169 in 2008. Dissolutions, the equivalent to a heterosexual divorce, have increased fourfold – from 42 to 180.

The gay rights organisation Stonewall said that the drop in numbers had been expected and the "pent-up demand had been met", with thousands of couples who had waited decades to legalise their partnerships rushing to tie the knot when civil partnerships were introduced in December 2005.

The ONS said that some fall-off was to be expected. Since the partnership law was introduced, 33,965 couples have taken advantage of it.

"These figures show true equality," said a Stonewall spokesperson. "They highlight the fact there there is no difference between the success rates between hetero and homosexual couples, like some sections of the media try and claim. It shows that gay people are exercising their rights to both enter and disband a civil partnership."

The civil partnership lawyer and the head of family law at Anthony Gold Solicitors, Kim Beatson, said she believed dissolutions had increased because people who had been in a stable relationship and had entered a civil partnership had since re-evaluated and determined that the relationship had gone stale, while others had been a bit "too fresh" when they entered a civil partnership.

"Some couples were caught up in the romance of the occasion and therefore probably entered into it from not as a stable background. But as with any forms of marriage, gay or straight, these types of relationships would come to an end.

"We also can't forget that there is a huge number of gay and lesbian couples who regard the civil partnership as second rate to marriage, and simply not good enough."

The gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said that gay couples were now waiting in the hope the law would change regarding same-sex marriage.

"Initially, most were ready to settle for civil partnerships. After years of no legal rights they were desperate to get something. Now the mood is shifting in favour of full legal equality – the right to get married in a registry office on the same level as heterosexual couples."

While a significantly higher number of gay men enter civil partnerships, more lesbians decide to dissolve them – 116 of 180 registered dissolutions were by female couples.

Stonewall refused to comment on the disparity. Ms Beatson said it could be linked to the possibility of children within female partnerships: "I think the desire to dissolve and formalising the dissolution when children are involved is of greater importance, and female couples are still more likely to have children than male couples." In technical terms, a dissolution is similar to a heterosexual divorce – couples can only apply for a dissolution after spending a minimum of 12 months together. The dissolution process takes four to six months and can be costly.

The civil partnership lawyer Arona Sarwar has seen a sharp increase in pre-nuptial agreements.

"We have always had a lot of gay clients but now more than 90 per cent of our pre-nups are for civil partnerships," she said. "I think gay couples are just more savvy about the fact that relationships can end," she said.

The London Borough of Westminster is the most popular location for civil partnerships, with 234 male and 48 female partnerships registered last year. Brighton was the second most popular location, with 158 male and 116 female partnerships registered.

Case Study: Matt Lucas and Kevin McGee

Matt Lucas and his partner, Kevin McGee, became the first high-profile gay couple to dissolve their civil partnership last October.

The comedian, famous for his role as solitary "homosexualist" Daffyd in the BBC show Little Britain, split up with Mr McGee, a television producer, after six years together. Their partnership, celebrated with a ceremony and lavish reception in 2006, had lasted 22 months. In a joint statement they called the decision "amicable".

Seen as a test case for the rules governing the dissolution of civil partnerships, media speculation focused on the amount Mr McGee, 31, would receive in the settlement. This intensified after Lucas hired the law firm Mishcon de Reya, which had previously represented Heather Mills and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Lucas's personal fortune is estimated to stand between £10m and £20m, garnered through a string of lucrative comedy deals.

It is not known whether the couple had signed a pre-civil partnership agreement and the eventual dissolution settlement has not been made public.

Lucas, 35, whose break came as a giant drum kit-bothering baby on the quiz show Shooting Stars, tied the knot shortly after civil partnership laws enabling same-sex legal unions came into force in December 2005. The couple had reportedly fallen "out of love".

Elliot Ross

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£22000 - £36000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary English Teacher...

Content Manager - Central London

£35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Central...

General Cover Teacher - Grimsby

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Qualified Teachers needed for Supply in t...

English Teacher Urgently Required - Secure Unit - Nottingham

£100 - £161 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Are you a fully qualified ...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on