Claire Connor discusses Civil Partnerships and the unfortunate rise in dissolutions, with female couples more likely then male couples to split.
Featured image credit: Mike Licht, Flickr
A new report released by the Office of National Statistics this week has shown that divorce figures in 2010 have risen. It is thought that the current economic climate is putting financial pressure on couples, leading to breakdowns in relationships and a rising number of couples getting divorced. The divorce statistics for married couples have been reflected in those of same sex Civil Partnerships; there has also been a rise in the number of dissolutions. This disappointing news comes at the same time as Gaydar, the UK’s largest dating site, released the results of new research showing that two fifths of gay men would like to marry in church. Until last week, civil partnerships were banned in UK churches, but despite the ban being lifted the Church says that it will still refuse to marry gay couples – news that has been met with disappointment from the religious LGBT community.
Since the first Civil Partnership took place between lesbian couple Shannon Sickles and Grainne Close in Belfast in December 2005, increasing numbers of same sex couples have been entering into the same agreement to show their commitment to one another. However, it is an unfortunate but definite fact that there will also inevitably be instances where the partnership does not work and the relationship breaks down. Whether this is due to pressures in the economic climate or less topical reasons is uncertain, but what is certain is that the numbers are increasing.
Civil Partnerships have only been in existence since late 2005 making it difficult to produce accurate figures on the number of dissolutions. Sarah Higgins, Partner and Head of the Family group at Charles Russell LLP explains, ‘As it was only possible to enter into a Civil Partnership (CP) in December 2005, among those who entered into CPs in that first year will have been a “backlog” of those who were not able to enter into a CP before. Some of the partners will have been together for a long time. It will take some time to see whether the statistics, particularly those which show that marriages are more likely to end in divorce than CPs are to end in dissolution, apply especially to those entering into CPs in 2005/6 or will prove of more general application.’[pullquote_left]Up to the end of 2010, 62% of dissolutions have been to female couples, despite the fact that only 44% of formations were to female couples[/pullquote_left]However, it is still possible to see that there has been a definite increase in the number of dissolutions, with female partnerships more likely to end than male ones despite the fact that up until 2010, more men formed civil partnerships than women. Thomas Duggins is Solicitor in the family team at Charles Russell LLP. ‘Up to the end of 2010, 62% of dissolutions have been to female couples, despite the fact that only 44% of formations were to female couples,’ he told So So Gay. ‘The evidence suggests therefore, that female civil partners are more likely to dissolve their partnerships.’ This trend has also been seen in other countries where same sex unions are possible. Duggins attributes this variation to the age difference between male and female partnerships. ‘Statistically, male civil partners are on average older than females when they form a civil partnership, and this may explain the difference in dissolution rates. It could be that entering the civil partnership when older means that it is less likely to fail, because the parties have known each other for longer. Certainly, the statistics show that the mean age at dissolution is similar or lower than the mean age at formation, which suggests that younger couples are more likely than older couples to dissolve their partnerships.’ Which may indeed mean that age is a more important factor than gender, in the stability of civil partnerships.
A report released in September, Civil Partnerships Five Years On, goes into more detail. The total number of dissolutions since December 2005 is 1007, compared to the total number of civil partnerships – 42 778. This is a reassuringly small percentage, showing that the majority of partnerships are, so far, lasting and stable. Research has also shown that marriages are more likely to end in divorce than Civil Partnerships are to end in dissolution, suggesting that same sex couples have more successful situations.
However, there does seem to be one particular similarity between dissolutions and divorce statistics. Recently released statistics show that two thirds of divorce petitions were issued by women. Duggins comments that, coupled with the Civil Partnerships statistics, there may be a variation in attitude between the sexes towards staying in an unhappy relationship; women may be more proactive about changing their circumstances. He’s points towards speculation that this may be due to the fact that gay men are more open to the idea of staying in an “open” relationship lessening the need for a dissolution. He recognises, however, that there is little to no evidence to support this and many people regard it as an unfair and inaccurate stereotype.
Ultimately, with only a few years worth of statistics it is difficult to tell what percentage of Civil Partnerships will end in dissolution. One thing that is for certain, however, is that increasing numbers of couples are entering into Civil Partnerships, meaning that more and more LGBT people are utilising this relatively new agreement to show their love for one another; which hopefully bodes well for the future.