A statutory civil partnership registration scheme for same-sex couples was set up under the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010. Under this Act which came into effect in January 2011 civil partners who enter into a registered civil partnership have broadly the same rights and obligations of married couples towards each other. The Act did not change the law on issues relating to children, for example, guardianship, adoption, custody, access or maintenance.
Former spouses who entered into civil partnerships: If you were married to someone and the marriage ended, and then you entered into a civil partnership with someone else, you lose your status as a former spouse. Under divorce legislation, former spouses continue to have the right to go to the courts for maintenance and property orders. However, once a former spouse entered into a civil partnership, this changed. Maintenance orders and pension adjustment orders in favour of a former spouse lapsed if that spouse entered into a civil partnership. A property adjustment order may not be made for the benefit of a former spouse if that spouse has entered into a registered civil partnership.
To qualify to have your civil partnership dissolved in Ireland you must satisfy these requirements:
- Either you or your spouse/partner must be domiciled (living permanently) in Ireland or have been living in Ireland for the past 1 year before the court application is made.
- Been living apart for 2 of the previous 3 years. You may be still living in the same house but not in a committed relationship so it is always important to take advice on how long you have been living apart.
Living together with someone is also sometimes called ‘cohabitation’. A cohabiting couple is a couple that lives together in an intimate and committed relationship, who are not married to each other and not in a civil partnership. Cohabiting couples can be opposite-sex or same-sex. A cohabiting relationship can continue to be ‘intimate’ even if it is not sexual. Couples living together now have certain rights if the relationship ends (through death or separation), though this depends on how long you have lived together and if you have children together.
If you have been living with your partner and your relationship ends, you may be able to avail of the redress scheme under the legislation. The aim of the redress scheme is to protect a financially dependent member of the couple if the long-term cohabiting relationship ends (either through death or separation).
Under the redress scheme, cohabiting couples can get similar orders from the court as are available to married couples when they separate or divorce if the court is satisfied that one of you was financially dependent on the other.
If you live with your partner and you do not intend to marry, you can protect your financial interests by entering into a ‘cohabitation agreement’ (also called a cohabitant’s agreement). This is a voluntary, signed agreement, which allows you to specify the day-to-day joint financial arrangements of your relationship.
You can also specify how you plan to separate your assets, such as shared property, should the relationship come to an end. You both need to get independent legal advice for the agreement to be valid. The advantage of a cohabitation agreement is that you prepare for future events while your relationship is still amicable.
To apply for court orders under the redress scheme, you must be a qualified cohabitant, this means you must have been:
- Living together in an intimate and committed relationship for at least 5 years; or
- Living together in an intimate and committed relationship for 2 years if you have had a child with your partner.