Civil Partnership

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

The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act, 2010 came into law in Ireland on 1st January, 2011.

Civil Partnership

It gave new rights to

  1. Civil partners and
  2. Cohabitants and Qualifying Cohabitants.

Civil partnerships, involving two people of the same sex, were now permitted to be registered under the Civil Registration Act, 2004.

What are Civil Partners?

Section 3:

3.— For the purposes of this Act a civil partner is either of two persons of the same sex who are—
(a) parties to a civil partnership registration that has not been dissolved or the subject of a decree of nullity, or
(b) parties to a legal relationship of a class that is the subject of an order made under section 5 that has not been dissolved or the subject of a decree of nullity.


To register a civil partnership

You need to

  1. Give 3 months notice to the Registrar
  2. Sign a declaration at the Registrar’s office not less than 5 days before the date on which the Civil Partnership is to be registered stating that there is no impediment to the registration
  3. Complete the Civil Partnership registration form in the presence of the Registrar and two witnesses over the age of 18.

The Act also makes provision for the recognition of foreign registered Civil Partnerships or similar legal arrangements.(See Statutory Instrument 649/2010).

Rights of Civil Partners

  1. The shared home of the Civil Partners will be protected in a similar way to the protection enjoyed by married couples in respect of the family home
  2. Maintenance orders can be made by Courts in favour of one Civil Partner against the other
  3. Civil partners are given succession rights to the property of the other Civil Partner in a similar way to the rights enjoyed by married couples
  4. Civil Partners enjoy certain tax exemptions in respect of gifts/inheritances and transfers of property.

Dissolution of a Civil Partnership

A Court can dissolve a Civil Partnership provided

  1. The Civil Partners have lived apart for at least 2 of the previous 3 years and
  2. Proper provision has been made for the Civil Partners.

The Court has wide powers to make ancillary orders such as enjoyed by married couples in respect of property, finances, maintenance, pension adjustment orders, etc.


The act also provides rights and obligations on cohabitants.

The definitions of a cohabitant and a qualified cohabitant under the act are important and can be found in section 172

A cohabitant:

172.— (1) For the purposes of this Part, a cohabitant is one of 2 adults (whether of the same or the opposite sex) who live together as a couple in an intimate and committed relationship and who are not related to each other within the prohibited degrees of relationship or married to each other or civil partners of each other.

A qualified cohabitant:

(5) For the purposes of this Part, a qualified cohabitant means an adult who was in a relationship of cohabitation with another adult and who, immediately before the time that that relationship ended, whether through death or otherwise, was living with the other adult as a couple for a period—
(a) of 2 years or more, in the case where they are the parents of one or more dependent children, and
(b) of 5 years or more, in any other case.

Only a qualified cohabitant can seek financial orders against the other cohabitant.

A Qualified Cohabitant can also apply to Court for a range of order and reliefs similar to a married couple on separation or divorce. These reliefs would include for maintenance, property adjustment orders, pension adjustment orders, etc.

The Act also provides for cohabitants entering into a cohabitants agreement to provide for financial matters during and after their cohabitation.

This agreement will only be valid if each party has had independent legal advice, the agreement is in writing and signed by both, and the law of contract is complied with.

These agreements can also provide that neither party can apply for orders in respect of maintenance, property, or pensions against the other. A Court may vary a cohabitants’ agreement in exceptional circumstances.

As can be seen, certain rights accrue to Qualified Cohabitants unless the parties exclude the operation of the Act by sighing a cohabitants’ agreement stating their agreement on financial matters.