Living together – happy ever after, or not?

Cohabiting heterosexual and homosexual couples will be interested to hear of a new piece of legislation - The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010. Walker O’Carroll & Hogan have a comprehensive overview of this act and the ways in which your rights may be affected.

Many of you will be delighted to learn that for the first time in the history of the State, civil registration can now be effected in relation to same sex unions and at last these relationships can be formalised and protected to some degree by this welcome piece of legislation.

And if you are a cohabitant, there’s good news too. Up to now couples residing together haven’t had the same property rights as married couples. This meant that if they wished, for example, to establish a right to a house owned by their partner and in which they had both been living, they would have had an uphill battle. Similarly, an economically dependent cohabitant who might possibly have fostered his or her partner’s career, had no protection or remedy when the relationship ended. This was a clear injustice but, with the new legislation, things have changed dramatically.

Now, the Act gives recognition to such cohabitants, whether of the same sex or not, who have lived together as a couple in a committed relationship. They are still free to make their own agreement regarding their property rights but now, in the absence of such agreement, a cohabitant can apply to the court for a property adjustment order to regularise their position if and when the relationship ends and to recognise the less well off partner in the relationship and the value that they have brought to same by giving them a share of the relevant property. The courts however in granting such property adjustment orders or indeed maintenance orders in favour of a qualified cohabitant must take cognisance of the rights of any person to whom the cohabitant had previously been married.

The act in effect allows the court to make similar pension adjustment orders, maintenance, attachment of earnings, pension adjustment orders as are available under current legislation for married couples to cohabitants.

One of the greatest worries for couples is what will happen on the death of either of them and it will be a relief to know that there is protection available now and he or she may apply for an order for provision out of the net estate of his or her cohabitant.

As in all rights, there is a time limit and claims must be brought within two years of the relationship ending.

The new act is not perfect – nothing ever is – but it’s a step in the right direction. The above is just a taster of what it’s all about and at Walker O’Carroll & Hogan they will be only too delighted to assist any cohabiting couples in relation to appraising them of their rights and assisting where necessary to vindicate such rights.

For more information call (090 ) 6492692.

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