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Rights of Cohabitants

Rights of Cohabitants

Rights of Cohabitants

A cohabitant is a person who lives together with another person;

  • As a couple in an intimate and committed relationship;
  • Who is not related to them within the prohibited degrees of relationship - such as parents, grandparents, siblings, children, grandchildren, or nieces/nephews; and
  • Is not married to, or a civil partner of, that person.

The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights of Cohabitants Act 2010 gives certain legal rights upon the break-up of the relationship to long-term cohabitants, referred as a "qualified cohabitant" for the purposes of the Act.

To qualify for the legal rights available under the law, cohabitants must be living together for a least five years if they have no children, or two years if they do have children.  You cannot be a qualified cohabitant if you or your partner are married, and, at the time of the break up of the relationship, the person who is married has not been separated from their spouse for at least two of the last three years.

If your relationship with your partner is in trouble

The Court should always be regarded as a last resort.  Court proceedings in Ireland generally have a negative impact on relationships,  and although the Judge will attempt to make a fair ruling,  it may not end with the result either party wants.

It may be better to attend relationship counselling or family mediation, to help work out a solution mutually acceptable to both parties.  Details of State funded family mediation are available on our website - www.legalaidboard.ie

Redress scheme for long term cohabitants

A qualified cohabitant may apply to the Court for certain orders:

  • An order that one cohabitant pay the other cohabitant a lump sum
  • An order that a financially dependent cohabitant be financially maintained by the other cohabitant ( a maintenance order).  The Court may also vary ( change) this order in line with circumstances, make interim (temporary) orders, order that payments by made through the District Court clerk, and order that a person's employer make the payment out of his/her wages (attachment of earnings)
  • An order making a payment or benefit out of the pension of one qualified cohabitant to the other (a pension adjustment order)
  • An order requiring a cohabitant to transfer some of their property to the other (a property adjustment order); and
  • An order giving a surviving cohabitant provision out of the estate of the deceased co-habitant.

The grant of these orders in not automatic.  The Court will take a number of factors into account when deciding whether or not to make an order.  These factors include:

  • The financial circumstances, needs and obligations of each cohabitant
  • The rights of others (including the rights of spouses, former spouses, civil partners, former civil partners and dependent children of either partner)
  • The duration and nature of the relationship; and the contribution made by each, financial and otherwise.

Cohabitant's Agreements

You may make a Cohabitants Agreement with your partner to provide financial arrangements in the event of the break-up of your relationship.

For such an agreement to be valid, the following conditions must be met:

  • Each of you has had independent legal advice or you have received legal advice together and have waived the right to independent legal advice:
  • The agreement constitutes a contract and complies with the law of contracts; and
  • The agreement has been signed by each of you.

You may contract out of the redress scheme by means of a Cohabitants Agreement.  Cohabitants Agreements are enforceable by the Court; however, the Court may set them aside or vary the agreement if the enforcement of the agreement would cause serious injustice.

Domestic Violence

Remedies under the Domestic Violence Act 2018 are available to cohabitants.  A safety order is essentially available to any person in an intimate relationship (whether or not they have  resided with the other person) or to a person who resided with the other person, even if the relationship was not intimate, provided that its basis was not primarily contractual (e.g. a tenancy).

A barring order is available to persons in an intimate relationship who have been co-habiting irrespective of the length of time or even if you have moved out.  However, the other person can not have a greater share of the property than you.

You should consult our Domestic Violence e-card for further details on domestic violence remedies.

Property Rights

Unless you hold a property jointly (you are both the registered owners, or you names are both on the title deeds) you do not have the right to inherit any property from your partner on their death.  In certain circumstances you may be able to apply for a share of the deceased cohabitant's estate.  Cohabitants may want to pay special heed to the importance of making a Will.


Where a couple is unmarried, only the other is a legal guardian.  Children and family Law leaflet, explains the position in greater detail and the remedies available.

The above is provided for information purposes only.  It does not purport to be either a statement of the law or legal advice.