Cohabitants are not afforded the same protection as a married couple. However, since the introduction of The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligation of Cohabitants Act 2010 there is a greater level of protection provided to unmarried couples who separate after 1st January 2011. It is important for couples to know their rights and obligations under the Act.

Prior to this Act, couples who lived together acquired no automatic property rights, no financial support, maintenance, pensions, or inheritance rights.

A cohabitant is one of two adults (whether of the same or the opposite sex) who live together as a couple in an intimate and committed relationship.

To avail of the Act, you must be a qualifying cohabitant, and this means living together for: –

  • Two years if you have dependent children or
  • Five years if you do not have children together.

An adult who would otherwise be a qualified cohabitant is not a qualified cohabitant if:

  • One of both of the adults is or was, at any time during the relationship conferenced, an adult who was married to someone else, and
  • At the time the relationship concerning ends, each adult who is or was married has not lived apart from his or her spouse for a period of at least 2 years during the previous 3 years.

Qualified Cohabitant

If you are a qualified cohabitants you have more rights and obligations if you separate or if your partner dies. You will have to show that you are financially dependent on your former partner due to the relationship or the ending of it.

If you are deemed as a qualified cohabitant, the court has powers to make orders in relation to property, maintenance, pensions and provisions out of the estate of a deceased partner.

The Act also provides for couples who wish to live together but do not wish to marry and wish to regulate their financial arrangements. It is also important for couples to be aware that they can contract out of the Act. They can enter into a Cohabitation Agreement during or at the end of their relationship. This sets out the agreement reached in relation property, maintenance, pensions, inheritance and any other relevant matters.

In circumstances where a relationship ends, a claim must be made within 2 years of separating.

If you are not deemed to be a qualified cohabitant under the Act, you may have redress in the District Court for maintenance or in the Circuit Court for any financial contributions made towards the property.

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