A statutory civil partnership registration scheme for same-sex couples was introduced in January 2011 under the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010. The Act sets out the rights and obligations that civil partners have towards each other. These are broadly the same as the rights and obligations of married couples towards each other. The Act did not change the law on issues relating to children, for example, guardianship, adoption, custody, access or maintenance.
Civil partners are treated in the same way as married couples under the tax and social welfare codes. Revenue has details of the tax treatment and assessment of married couples and civil partners on its website.
Civil partnerships which were registered in other countries and which met certain criteria were also recognised in Ireland.
Marriage Act 2015
Following the commencement of the Marriage Act 2015 on 16 November 2015, you can no longer register a civil partnership in Ireland. Couples already in a civil partnership can apply to marry or remain as they are. If you decide to marry, your civil partnership is automatically dissolved.
Civil partnerships registered abroad since 16 May 2016 are not recognised in Ireland.
You can find more information on the Department of Justice website.
Register of civil partnerships
The General Register Office maintains a register of civil partnerships, a register of decrees of dissolution of civil partnerships and a register of nullity of civil partnerships. The registration rules and processes were similar to those for the registration of a civil marriage, annulments of marriage and divorce.
How civil partnership changes yourlegal status
A registered civil partnership is a legally binding civil contract. It gives rise to many far-reaching legal consequences which are generally similar to the legal consequences of getting married.
Civil partnership changes your entitlements and obligations regarding:
- Social welfare
- Life insurance and pensions
- Shared home
- Barring, safety and protection orders
Other consequences of civil partnership
Civil liability: A surviving civil partner may sue for 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.
Mental health: 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 is no longer valid if the partnership is dissolved or there is a safety or barring order against the civil partner.
Property disputes: A civil partner may apply to the courts for a decision in relation to disputes over property with their partner.
Tenancies: Under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, a civil partner may be able to take over a tenancy on the death of their partner.
Former spouses who entered into civil partnerships: If you were married to someone and the marriage ended, and then you entered into a civil partnership with someone else, you lose your status as a former spouse. Under divorce legislation, former spouses continue to have the right to go to the courts for maintenance and property orders. However, once a former spouse entered into a civil partnership, this changed. Maintenance orders and pension adjustment orders in favour of a former spouse lapsed if that spouse entered into a civil partnership. A property adjustment order may not be made for the benefit of a former spouse if that spouse has entered into a registered civil partnership.
Ending a civil partnership
When a civil partnership breaks down, the civil partners may choose to informally separate and live apart. However, most couples will eventually want to regulate matters between them.
If a married couple or civil partners can agree the terms on which they will live separately, they may enter into a separation agreement. The agreement is a legally binding contract setting out each party's rights and obligations to the other. The terms of the agreement are usually reached either through mediation or negotiation through solicitors.
The courts are also able to dissolve civil partnerships in a similar way to the granting of divorce. To grant a decree of dissolution, civil partners must have been living apart* for 2 out of 3 years. However, the rules governing the dissolution of civil partnerships are different.
Orders such as protection orders, maintenance orders and pension adjustment orders can be made during court proceedings for the dissolution of civil partnerships in the same way as they can in judicial separation and divorce proceedings.
Unlike divorce proceedings, the civil partners’ legal advisers do not have to discuss the possibility of reconciliation, mediation or other alternatives to dissolution. The court may, however, adjourn proceedings to facilitate these alternatives.
In specific circumstances, the courts are able to grant a decree of nullity of civil partnership in broadly the same way as decrees of nullity of marriage are granted.
The Family Law Act 2019 (pdf) provides a definition of ‘living apart’ to give certainty to the interpretation of the term in the Irish courts. It clarifies that civil partners who live in the same home as one another are considered to be living apart if they are not living together as a couple in an intimate and committed relationship. The Act also sets out that a relationship does not cease to be an intimate relationship merely because the relationship is no longer sexual in nature.