The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 gives same sex couples broadly the same rights as married couples. For registered partnerships, the following is a summary of civil partnership rights available to either partner.
Civil Partners (‘CPs’) are required to support each other financially. This means that either can seek maintenance from the other during/after their relationship. They can seek enforcement of maintenance orders via attachment of earnings orders, lump sum orders, secured maintenance orders etc just like married couples rights regarding Children
A CP may make an individual adoption application but joint adoption is not permitted by the Act. On the death of the partner that is the biological parent of a child, the other partner may only be conferred with a right of guardianship; this can be conferred by Will or by Court Order.
As regards guardianship and custody in general terms, only the biological parent of the child has legal rights. The non-biological partner has no rights of guardianship or custody.
Shared Home Protection
The owning civil partner cannot convey any property deemed to be a “partnership property” to any third party without the prior consent in writing of the non owning partner. Where the consent is not available an application must be made to Court to dispense with the consent by the Partner wishing to dispose of the property in question. Similar reliefs may be sought from the Court on dissolution of a civil partnership in respect of the Shared Home as are available in respect of the Family Home on separation/divorce etc.
A civil partner may apply to the courts for a decision in relation to disputes over property with his/her partner. In the dissolution of a partnership and “no fault” Exclusion Order is available. An exclusion order reflects the recognition of the courts that it is not practical for separated couples/partners to occupy the same house or for the spouses/civil partners who leave to retain a key and have free access to the house. It does not imply any unacceptable conduct on the part of the spouses/civil partners who are excluded from the house.
Wills and Succession
The rights of civil partner on death are similar to those of a marital spouse. Similar succession rights and inheritance rights are provided to civil partners as are provided to spouses. Civil partners will be entitled to the legal right share in their deceased partners estate and also the rights under intestacy as with a married spouse. Where the civil partner has made a will, a Section 117 application (an application to Court for failure to adequately provide to a child of the deceased) may only be made by children as against their biological parent’s estate.
For the purposes of determining eligibility for a pension, civil partners will be treated in a manner identical to the treatment of a husband and wife of the holder of pension entitlements.
Registered civil partnerships have effectively the same tax treatment as married persons. More information is available on the Revenue Commissioners website .
Under the Act, the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, 1996 to extend to civil partnerships. The amendments entitle a civil partner to apply for the protection of the court via safety order, barring order, protection order or interim barring order in the same way as spouse or former spouse may do.
The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2010 provides for the changes in social welfare law required to give civil partners and cohabitants broadly the same social welfare rights for example job seekers allowance for pension rights for widows/widowers of the civil partner. These provisions of the Act came into effect on 1 January 2010. More information can be found here.
The main effects of the changes are:
- Civil partners will be treated as a dependent for purposes of social welfare provisions
- Civil partners are eligible for survivors’ benefits in the same way as married couples.
- Civil partners are liable to maintain each other and are now subject to the provisions of the social welfare code relating to liability for maintenance.
- One of the couple in a civil partnership or a same-sex cohabitant may be regarded as a qualified adult for social welfare purposes if he/she meets the usual conditions.
- Civil partners and cohabitants are treated in the same way as married couples in respect of means-tested payments. This means that as well as having the means of each member of the couple taken into account, the total payments to such couples may be limited if one of them is getting a means-tested payment.
- Civil liability – a surviving civil partner may sue in respect of the wrongful death of their civil partner, where the death was caused by the negligence or wrongdoing of another person and has resulted in injury or mental distress to the survivor.
A civil partner may apply for the involuntary admission to a psychiatric institution of a mentally ill civil partner (provided the parties are not separated and provided the applicant has not been the subject of an application under the Domestic Violence Acts).
Power of Attorney
A civil partner must be informed of the registration of an enduring power of attorney. Similarly, an enduring power of attorney in favour of a civil partner ceases to be valid if the partnership is dissolved or there is a safety or barring order against the civil partner.
Under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 a civil partner may be able to take over a tenancy on the death of their partner.
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