General Legal Advice on Civil Partnership & Cohabitation:
AAs of 22 May 2015, following a Referendum on same sex marriage, Ireland now recognises same-sex marriage. The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 (the 2010 Act) introduced civil partnership for same-sex couples and provides for extensive rights and obligations once a civil partnership has been registered.
What is the status of civil partnership/same-sex marriage in Ireland?
AThe 2010 Act governs civil partnership and also sets out the grounds on which civil partnership may be dissolved. As with marriage, civil partnership only ends on the death of one of the civil partners or on dissolution by the court. The Act makes provision for the formalities and procedures surrounding registration of civil partnership and legal effect is given to a range of rights and entitlements that flow from civil partnership. These include provision for maintenance, protection of the shared home, inheritance entitlements and pension provision. The Act also makes provision for the legal right share of the civil partner which are broadly similar to the provisions applicable to spouses. In addition, certain classes of foreign relationship are also recognised under the provisions of the Act on foot of further ministerial order. No clear guidance is given on the manner in which children issues should be determined and the 2010 Act is silent on these matters.
What legislation governs civil partnership/same-sex marriage?
AThe Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 (the 2010 Act) entered into force in Ireland on 1 January 2011. In addition to introducing civil partnership for same-sex couples, this legislation introduced a new statutory regime for cohabiting couples, whether same-sex or opposite sex, provided they are not married or civilly partnered to each other. The Act establishes a ‘presumptive’, ‘redress’ or ‘safety net’ scheme for certain cohabiting couples. The aim is to protect the economically dependent or vulnerable party at the end of a long-term cohabiting relationship, whether on relationship breakdown or death. ‘Qualified’ cohabitants can apply to court for certain financial relief, including property adjustment orders, compensatory maintenance orders, pension adjustment orders and other orders for provision from the estate of a deceased cohabitant. ‘Qualified cohabitants’ are defined as cohabitants residing together as an unmarried couple in an intimate relationship for a period of five years, or two years where there is a child or children of the relationship. The orders available to qualified cohabitants are not as extensive as those available to spouses and/or civil partners. The claiming partner must illustrate financial dependency and the court must have regard to the factors contained in the legislation which include the rights of other parties (such as any spouses or civil partners in existence), the duration of the relationship and the contributions made by each cohabitant, whether financial or otherwise. Section 201 of the Act provides for regulation of financial matters by written agreement between cohabitants thereby facilitating ‘opt out’ from the statutory regime. The Act provides that such an agreement will be valid and enforceable where it is in writing, signed by both cohabitants with the benefit of independent legal advice and where it accords with contract law.
What legislation (if any) governs division of property for unmarried couples on the breakdown of the relationship?