Family Law: Civil Partnerships and Cohabitation in Ireland

Civil Partnerships

Civil partnership was introduced in Ireland in 2011 to cater for same-sex couples, but it was rescinded in 2015 after the introduction of the Marriage Equality Act. Couples can no longer register a civil partnership in Ireland, and partnerships registered abroad since May 16, 2016, are not recognised as civil partnerships here. Civil partnerships offer much of the same formalities and protections as marriage.

To Dissolve a Civil Partnership:

If you obtained a civil partnership in Ireland before the introduction of the Marriage Equality Act and wish to dissolve it, you must meet the following conditions:

  • Both parties must have been living apart for two out of the previous three years.
  • Adequate arrangements must be made for each of the parties.
  • Separate documents must be submitted to court outlining the partnership details and stating the parties’ assets and means of income.

To Secure a Decree of Nullity:

The court must be satisfied that one of the following conditions has been met:

  • At least one party was aged under 18.
  • At least one party was married already or in a civil partnership.
  • Formalities were not complied with.
  • At least one party did not give free, informed consent.


From a legal perspective, cohabitation involves two adults living together in a committed, intimate relationship, without being married to each other, civil partners, or related to each other (within the prohibited degrees of relationship). 

What else needs to be considered when deciding whether a relationship equates to cohabitation?

  • How long has the relationship continued?
  • On what basis do the parties live together?
  • To what level does either party depend on the other financially?
  • What kind of financial arrangements have they made (including property purchases and other joint acquisitions)?
  • Are there dependent children?
  • Does one party support the children of the other?
  • Do the parties present themselves as a couple?

Qualified Cohabitants

To be considered a qualified cohabitant who can apply to the court for orders, you must:

  • rely economically on the other party in the relationship
  • be an adult
  • have been in a cohabiting relationship with the other adult for at least two years if you are the parents of at least one dependent child, or five years in all other cases

The kinds of court orders you may secure include:

  • A property adjustment order, which changes property ownership
  • A maintenance order
  • A pension adjustment order

In certain cases, the court may make provision from a deceased cohabitant’s estate.