Between 2012 and 2014 I interviewed some of the earliest civil partners to dissolve their partnerships about their experience of dissolution. When I presented my findings, most family lawyers responded that dissolution was ‘pretty much like divorce’. And so it was, in many respects; but I thought that such comments missed an important difference. This paper focuses on the legal understandings of gays and lesbians who have undergone dissolution of their civil partnerships and on their experiences of it. This seemed to me significant for three reasons. First, the experiences of lesbians and gay men have historically been marginalised, pathologised or absent from legal accounts and the dominant legal consciousness. In this research they would be put centre-stage. Second, the institution of civil partnership – transient though it may turn out to be – deserves study as the point of entry into legal recognition and regulation of same-sex couples’ relationships in the UK. And, third, it is this precise history that makes it different from marriage, and dissolution different from divorce, whatever the similarities in legal treatment.