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The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act, 2010

The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act, 2010 (“the Act”) was introduced into law on 01/01/2011. It brought into Irish law the concept of civil partnerships for same sex couples as well as certain rights for cohabiting couples.

Same sex couples may now register their relationship as a civil partnership with the Civil Registrar. A 3 month notice period is required in the same way that a 3 month notice period is required for weddings under the Civil Registration Act, 2004. Once the civil partnership is officially registered various rights are conferred on each party under the tax and social welfare laws and succession, maintenance and property rights will be acquired.

Although much of the publicity surrounding the Act related to civil partnerships, of equal importance is the section of the Act that provides certain rights to qualifying cohabitants. A “qualifying cohabitant” is defined as a person who has lived in an intimate and committed relationship with another for 2 years or more where they have at least 1 dependent child or as a person who has lived with another person for 5 years or more in any other case.

On behalf of the European Commission (DG Justice) carried out by RAND Europe.

A person who views himself as a qualifying cohabitant does not acquire automatic rights. However he can apply to the Family Law Court for financial redress at the end of a relationship if he qualifies as a “cohabitant”. The court can make orders relating to maintenance, property transfers from one party to another, shares in the estate of one party or pension adjustment orders.  There is a 2 year time limit within which any application must be made.

Many cohabiting couples who live together may not be aware of these provisions and may have made wills or generally have future intentions which could be challenged on the basis outlined above. Legal advice should be taken by any cohabiting couple who fall within these definitions particularly where a property is only owned by one party. It is possible to enter into an agreement restricting any rights acquired under the Act. Independent legal advice by both parties should be taken in advance of signing any agreement.

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