Civil Partnership & Cohabitation

In January 2011, the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 became law. For most purposes, the Act equates civil partnership with marriage. In this regard, civil partnerships cannot be considered an alternative to marriage, rather they are a separate scheme designed to allow same-sex couples who cannot marry to register their civil partnerships. Ireland now recognizes many same-sex marriages and civil partnerships registered abroad as civil partnerships.

Civil partnerships, like marriages, bring with them various recognitions, responsibilities and protections which relate to such aspects as maintenance, shared housing, succession, taxation, domestic violence, social welfare, and pensions. Since the Irish Civil Partnership Act was adopted, many same-sex couples have registered their civil partnership.
The courts may dissolve some of these relationships, if either partner seeks dissolution from the court in those circumstances. Similarly, to those that are available in cases of separation and divorce, the court also has the power to grant ancillary financial relief orders. Separation and divorce cases also have similar statutory factors considered by the Court.

Courts may grant dissolutions if they determine the following:

  • At the date of the institution of the proceedings the civil partners have lived apart from one another for a period of or a period amounting to at least two years during the previous three years; and
  • Proper provision, having regard to the circumstances, exists or will be made for the civil partners.

The court is only required to consider provision for the other partner when granting a Decree of Dissolution.

Cohabitation - living together as a couple

As of January 2011, the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 introduced new rights and obligations for couples who live together (cohabit). Until the Act was introduced, cohabiting couples had little or no rights or obligations towards one another. While couples living together need to understand these new rights and obligations, it is also important that they are aware that the Act can be opted out of. A cohabitant is not entitled to the same rights and obligations as a married couple or civil partner.

A cohabitant is defined in the Act as two people of the same sex or opposite sex, who meet the following criteria:

  •  Not married to each other.
  • Not in a registered civil partnership.
  • Not related within the prohibited degrees of relationship (broadly speaking, relationships which would make them ineligible to marry each other).
  • Who are living together in an intimate and committed relationship.

In the event that cohabiting couples separate, they can seek redress through the Redress Scheme, introduced under the Act. In order to do this you must be a qualifying cohabitant. In order to be a qualifying cohabitant you need to have lived together for a period of two years and have a child together, or have lived together for five years immediately before the time that the relationship ended either through separation or death.

If you are a qualifying cohabitant you can apply to Court, under the Redress Scheme, to claim compensatory maintenance, property transfer orders and pension adjustment orders. In the case of death, a qualifying cohabitant can make a claim against the Estate of a deceased cohabitant. The Act also encourages couples to create their own Cohabitation Agreement, which outlines what should happen if the couple separates and outlines the living arrangements. The Redress Scheme can be opted out of in this agreement.