This came into law on the 19th of July 2010 and as the name suggests, the Act can be broken down into two main areas.
- Civil partnership of same sex couples and
- Unmarried Cohabitants
Civil Partnership/Same Sex Couples:
For the first time in Ireland same sex couples are given rights, entitlements and obligations similar to married couples. Same sex couples must register their partnership in order to derive any rights or entitlements under the Act.
Civil partners can avail of many of the rights and protections conferred to married couples in areas such as property, maintenance, succession and pensions. If you are in a same sex relationship and have chosen to register your relationship, this relationship can only come to an end upon the death of one partner or alternatively on the dissolution of the partnership by a court (similar to a decree of divorce or judicial separation).
An application for dissolution of the partnership allows one or both partners to apply for maintenance or pension adjustment orders, property adjustment orders and a share in the estate of their ex-partner on death. The Act also permits civil partners to make an application for a barring order or safety order under the Domestic Violence Act, 1996.
Cohabiting Couples/Unmarried Couples Living Together:
The cohabitant’s scheme applies to all “qualified cohabitants” regardless as to whether or not they are same sex or opposite sex couples. The aim is to protect an economically dependent or financially vulnerable person after a relationship breakdown or the death of a long-term partner.
A qualified cohabitant is a person who has lived with another for two years or more and has at least one dependent child with that person. If there are no children, five years or more of cohabitation is required to qualify.
An adult who would otherwise be a qualified cohabitant is not considered as qualified cohabitant if:
a.) one or both of the adults is/was at any time during the relationship, an adult, who was married to someone else and
b.) at the time the relationship concerned ends, each adult who is/was married has not lived apart from his/her spouse for a period/periods of at least 4 years during the previous five years.
The court in these circumstances can make the following orders:
- Maintenance payment.
- Rights to seek a share in the other partner’s pension.
- Share in the property.
- A share in the other partner’s estate on death.
An application should be made within 2 years of the relationship breaking down. The purpose of this is to prevent a long forgotten ex-partner seeking to claim maintenance or alternatively seeking to claim a share in your estate on your death.
If a married person leaves a will, their surviving partner gets at least one-third of the inheritance, regardless of what is in the will. For civil partners, however, children can apply to the Courts to have that share reduced. There are also no clear provisions to protect a surviving civil partner if someone dies insolvent.
Protection against violence:
In protecting against domestic violence, a married person can apply for a number of court orders at the same time. A civil partner, in the same situation, must apply for each order separately.
Registering a partnership:
All couples need to give three months notice.
Q. I am in a same-sex relationship and want to register my partnership, what do I do?
A. You must give at least three-months notice to your local Registrar. Civil Registration Offices can be found on the HSE website. The documents required are:
- Birth Certificate
- Proof of address
- PPS numbers
Q. What is a qualified cohabitant?
A. A person who has lived with another for two years or more, if they have children together, and five years or more if there are no children.
Q. How much does it cost and how long will it take?
A. Cohabitation agreements vary but generally cost from €800 – €1200 to prepare. Once instructions are received, an agreement can be drawn up in seven days.