Helping Our Clients Put Together Legally Binding Cohabitation Agreements
For unmarried couples, navigating a relationship breakdown can be complex, as there are many scenarios where you will not have the same legal rights as those who are married or in civil partnerships. Specifically, you don’t inherently possess the right to equally share finances or property upon separation.
Whether you’re considering moving in with a partner, or simply planning ahead, it’s a good idea to consult with legal experts to ensure you have clarity and protection against potential future inequities.
Our family law team can draft a legally binding cohabitation agreement that determines what will happen if your relationship ends. This includes an outline of:
- Property Ownership – How currently owned and future-acquired property will be treated. This can detail what belongs to whom, and how jointly acquired property will be divided upon separation.
- Financial Arrangements – How joint bills (like utilities, rent, or mortgage) will be divided, whether there will be joint bank accounts, and how contributions to those accounts will be handled.
- Debt Responsibility – Clarification on who is responsible for what debt and how jointly accrued debt will be managed.
- Children – Provisions related to the care and financial responsibility of children, including child support, education, and other related expenses.
- Pets – Who retains ownership and responsibility for pets acquired during the relationship.
- End of Relationship – Outlining how assets and responsibilities will be divided if the relationship ends.
- Living Arrangements – Outlining what happens to the shared residence if you separate. For instance, who remains in the house, how the other person is compensated, etc.
- Death or Incapacity – Detailing how assets and responsibilities will be handled if your partner dies or becomes incapacitated.
At McCarthy + Co, our solicitors are honest and plain speaking, providing expert guidance tailored to your unique situation. It’s important to us that you’re well-informed and confident in every choice you make. Considering setting up a cohabitation agreement? Arrange a consultation with us today by completing our highly confidential consultation form.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Questions we are often asked in relation to divorce & separation.
What is the legal definition of a cohabiting couple in Ireland?
A cohabiting couple is defined as two individuals who live together in a committed relationship without being married or in a civil partnership. Cohabiting couples may be opposite-sex or same-sex partners. In Ireland, couples in these types of relationships possess specific rights regarding property, child custody, maintenance, and inheritance. To be eligible for these rights, the couple must live together for a minimum of 5 years, or 2 years if they share dependent children. These rights are detailed in the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010.
I’m considering purchasing a property with my partner, what is the best way to go about this?
Cohabiting couples in Ireland have two main options for joint property ownership:
- Joint Tenancy
- Tenancy in Common
Making an informed choice between these options can have implications for the future, especially in scenarios involving the death of a partner or the dissolution of your relationship.
Joint Tenancy - In this setup, both partners collectively own the property. If one partner passes away, the surviving partner automatically inherits the entire property. However, complications might arise if only one partner financed the purchase. In this scenario, the non-financing partner might not be entitled to 50% of the sale proceeds when the property is sold. As such, it’s important to seek legal advice from a solicitor to ensure you have clarity over your rights to the property.
Tenancy in Common – In this setup, each partner owns a specific share of the property. They are free to bequeath their share to anyone they choose, be it their partner or someone else. However, this intention should be outlined in a will. Without a will, the deceased partner's share doesn't automatically go to the surviving partner. Instead, it becomes part of the deceased's estate. This means that the deceased's family, a separated spouse, or civil partner might stake a claim to that share.
Will I inherit my partner’s assets if they die?
In Ireland, unmarried couples don't automatically inherit from each other's estates. If your partner passes away without a will specifying you as a beneficiary, you won't inherit anything, regardless of how long you've lived together or the duration of your relationship. In worst case scenarios, this can result in a grieving partner being evicted from their home, finding themselves without shelter or financial support. However, it is possible to seek provision from your deceased partner’s assets, by proving that you cohabited for at least five years (or two years if you have children) and you were financially reliant on them. This provision is enabled via the redress scheme.
What is the redress scheme for cohabiting couples?
If a cohabitation relationship concludes, a qualified cohabitant can access the redress scheme as outlined in the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010. This scheme allows the cohabitant to approach the Court for orders similar to those granted to married couples during separation or divorce. Should one cohabitant pass away, the surviving partner can seek provision from the deceased's estate under this scheme.
A qualified cohabitant has the right to apply to the court for one or multiple of the following orders after the cohabitation ends:
- A property adjustment order related to any property where the cohabitant has a vested or future interest.
- A compensatory maintenance order from the other cohabitant, which could be periodic or a lump sum.
- A pension adjustment order regarding the other cohabitant's pension.
- Provision from the deceased cohabitant's estate.
It's important to note that these proceedings must be initiated within two years of the relationship's end if both partners are alive. If one has passed away, the proceedings must be started no later than six months after the Grant of Probate is issued.
Clíodhna O’Regan leads the family law department at McCarthy + Co. Clíodhna’s educational background includes studying law and European studies at the University of Limerick, even completing a semester in Madrid where she navigated the complexities of law in Spanish.
Clíodhna can be contacted via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
About McCarthy + Co
McCarthy + Co. are a team of solicitors with more than 30 years of experience in providing legal advice, guidance and assistance to clients across Ireland.
We are a family-run business with offices in Dublin and Cork, but we have dealt with clients everywhere from Galway and Limerick to Waterford. We are honest, plain-speaking and thorough – we will work alongside you to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
Our Awards & Accreditations
We are a multi-award winning firm, accredited by the Law Society of Ireland.
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Flor McCarthy wears multiple hats, not only as the managing partner of one of Ireland’s leading law firms, but also as an author, speaker and an acknowledged expert in client service, innovation and marketing.
Beginning his academic journey at UCC, Flor furthered his education with a master’s degree in law from UCD. After gaining valuable experience as a solicitor in Dublin, the allure of home and the family brought him back to West Cork to contribute his expertise to the family business.
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John McCarthy is a seasoned solicitor with almost 20 years of experience, specialises in personal injury and medical negligence claims, focusing particularly on high-value compensation cases. His extensive litigation experience spans Circuit Court, High Court and Supreme Court levels.
John's practice involves a diverse range of cases, from personal injury and wrongful death to property damage, defective products, professional negligence and judicial reviews.