July 2010 | Cohabitants legislation

Legislation has been introduced (though not yet in force) to provide cohabiting couples (both same sex and opposite sex) with certain rights and obligations which are far reaching.

The couple can specifically choose to opt out of the provisions. The legislation has therefore introduced the concept of contracting out of relationship rights, possibly a precursor to the recognition of pre-nuptial agreements in the future, see also here.

The Act establishes a 'redress' scheme for such couples with the aim of protecting an economically dependant party at the end of a long term relationship, whether on its break up on on death. The Act allows 'qualified cohabitants' to make a court application for certain reliefs including provision from the estate of the deceased cohabitant. Such reliefs are not absolute - they are decided by the court on a discretionary basis and take into account the economic dependency of the claiming partner, the rights of other parties such as spouses or civil partners, the duration of the relationship and the contributions made by each cohabitant.

Qualified cohabitants are cohabitants who have resided 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).

Somewhat confusingly the legislation on cohabitants has been introduced in the same Act that that introduces the recognition of civil partners, details of which see here.

The legislation is entitled the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010.  It is not yet in force awaiting Ministerial Order for its enforcement.


Aileen Keogan | Solicitor & Tax Consultant | 21 The Avenue | Louisa Valley | Leixlip | Co. Kildare | Ireland

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