Civil partnerships


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. 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. Necessary changes to the social welfare codes were made through the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2010. Taxation changes were made through the Finance (No. 3) Act 2011. Revenue has details of the tax treatment and assessment of married couples and civil partners on its website.

The Minister for Justice and Equality made orders recognising civil partnerships as classes of legal relationships which were registered in other countries and which met certain criteria.

Marriage Act 2015

Following the commencement of the Marriage Act 2015 on 16 November 2015, you can no longer register a civil partnership. 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.

Partnerships registered abroad since 16 May 2016 are not recognised as civil partnerships in Ireland.

You can find more information on the Department of Justice and Equality website.

Register of civil partnerships

The Registrar-General is obliged to maintain 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 broadly similar to those for the registration of a civil marriage, annulments of marriage and divorce.

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.

Living apart

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.

Orders such as protection orders, maintenance orders and pension adjustment orders may be made in the course of court proceedings for the dissolution of civil partnerships in the same way as such orders may be made in judicial separation and divorce proceedings.

Unlike divorce proceedings, the civil partners’ legal advisers are not required to discuss the possibility of reconciliation, mediation or other alternatives to dissolution. The court may, however, adjourn proceedings in order to facilitate such 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.

Page edited: 12 March 2021