The Changing Nature of the Irish Family
Earlier this decade, the law in Ireland finally began to catch up to an increasingly diverse Irish society and put in place some protections for unmarried partners to mirror those available for married partners.
The last census showed that there were nearly 90,000 couples in Ireland describing themselves as co-habiting and it showed that more than 40% of couples were cohabiting prior to marriage. One would expect that those figures have increased – which will be evident following the results of the upcoming census.
Until recently there was no protection for people who lived together outside of marriage. That all changed with a new Act in 2010, which was given the not so catchy name of the ‘Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010’.[soundcloud id=’257460013′]
What is a cohabitant relationship?
At its simplest, it is where you have two adults (of the same sex or of different sexes) who are living together in an intimate and committed relationship but are not married, are not civil partners and are not siblings.
How will a court know that we were living together?
This is often a significant point of contention and we have had many clients stating they were in a cohabiting relationship which the other side denies.
The Court is the ultimate decider as to whether or not the relationship was a cohabiting one. It will hear evidence from all parties. Among the things it will consider would be the duration and nature of the relationship and the basis on which the two people stayed in the same or different houses. The pair’s financial circumstances will also be examined to see whether they held joint accounts or made joint investments.
It will hear evidence from all parties. Among the things it will consider would be the duration and nature of the relationship and the basis on which the two people stayed in the same or different houses. The pair’s financial circumstances will also be examined to see whether they held joint accounts or made joint investments.
An interesting example which we at Lynch Solicitors were directly involved in was when the court accepted as evidence how the pair presented themselves to others when in public, such as when at a weddings (did they present themselves to others as a couple or as friends).
It then comes down to the judge to make the decision.
An important difference between a cohabitant and a qualifying cohabitant
To qualify under the legislation, a cohabitant must meet a number of criteria aside from simply living with the other person.
If they have children with that person then they must be living together for two years. If they don’t they have to be living together for five years.
Passing this hurdle alone is not enough, however, the person must show they are what is called a “qualifying cohabitant” to be eligible for protection under the act.
A qualifying cohabitant is a cohabitant who is financially dependent on the other party because of the relationship or its breakup. This may be obvious because, for example, they quit their job to raise the children and now find themselves lacking employment prospects. This is an aspect of these cases that has resulted in extensive examination by the Court into the financial circumstances of the couple.