Relationships and your rights


Cohabiting relationships

Cohabiting couples do not possess the same legal rights and obligations as married couples or civil partnerships in Irish law. This has important implications for a number of areas in your life - including inheritance rights, property ownership, custody and guardianship of children, adoption and fostering. There is a redress scheme for cohabiting couples who have been in a long-term cohabiting relationship.

Getting married provides information that you need if you are getting married in Ireland and abroad, including information on different legal ways of getting married, how marriage will change your legal status, legal prerequisites for marriage, notification requirements , the registration of marriage and getting married abroad.

Same-sex relationships

Before 16 November 2015 there was provision for the legal registration of same-sex couples as civil partnerships. This provision has been repealed for new civil parnerships. However, it is now possible for same-sex couples to become legally married and to have the same rights and obligations towards each other as opposite-sex married couples.It is also possible for a couple in a civil partnership to marry. provides information on how civil partnership changes your legal status.

The rights of cohabiting same-sex couples are similar to the rights of cohabiting opposite-sex couples. Our section on cohabiting couples looks at various aspects of your life with your partner. We also examine the issue of surrogacy in Ireland.

Separation, divorce and dissolution

The end of a marriage or a civil partnership is a difficult and traumatic process. The information provided on the Citizens Information website will help you deal with the different practical aspects of a marriage or civil partnership breakdown.

Information is available on the legal options following a marital breakdown and the legal options following a civil partnership breakdown, such as divorce, judicial separation, separation agreements and dissolution. There is also information on what happens the family or shared home and maintenance agreements.


Grandparents also have certain rights in relation to their grandchild. Where grandparents are having difficulty in maintaining contact with their grandchild, they can apply for access to the child through the District Court. Access can also be applied for if a child is in the care of the HSE.

Any relative, including a grandparent, can apply to the court for custody of a child. The court will not normally make an order for custody without the consent of the child’s guardians. However, it may dispense with the consent if it is satisfied that it is in the best interest of the child to make the order. If the grandparents are the main carers of the child and the child is not being properly maintained financially by either or both parents, the grandparents can apply to the District Court for a maintenance order.

A parent can nominate a person (including a grandparent) to act as a guardian if the parent is unable, through serious illness or injury, to exercise their guardianship rights. Where parents die without making a will appointing someone to act as guardian of their child, the grandparents can apply to the District Court to be appointed guardians. Grandparents can also apply for guardianship:

  • If they have provided the day-to-day care of the child for a continuous period of 12 months or more and
  • Where there is no parent or guardian willing or able to exercise guardianship rights and responsibilities in respect of the child

The court will decide the extent of the guardianship rights the grandparents will have.

Grandparents may be able to adopt or foster a grandchild.

You can find more information on grandparent’s rights on Treoir’s website. Treoir have also published a booklet entitled Being there for them (pdf) for grandparents of children whose parents are not married to each other.

Page edited: 28 January 2016