Unmarried couples do not have the same rights and obligations as married couples or couples in a civil partnership. However, some rights may arise from the relationship if the couple are cohabitants.

A couple will be cohabitants where they are not married or in a civil partnership and are in an intimate and committed relationship. To qualify for rights as a cohabitating couple, they must live together for 5 years if they do not have children or 2 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 breakup of the relationship, the person who is married has not been separated from their spouse for at least four of the last five years.

If a couple qualify as cohabitants, they have some legal rights on their breakup.   They can apply to a Court under the redress scheme which provides protections for a financially dependent cohabitant and the Court can make orders broadly similar as available to married couples when they separate or divorce. If one cohabitant dies, the surviving cohabitant can apply for provision from the estate of the deceased cohabitant.

It is also possible to cohabitating couples to put in place a cohabitant agreement while they are together to provide for what would happen in the event they separate. This can be a useful procedure as it can be completed during a less stressful and emotional time, and have effect if needed.

If a couple own property together and they separate, the property is generally owned by the party in whose name the property is held. It may be in both parties’ names and they will then have to decide what to do with the property upon their separation. If it is in the name of one of the parties and the other party contributed towards the property then they can apply to a Court for a share of the property.

Having a relationship break down can be a difficult and stressful time. Please contact Margaret Fortune by email or 051 840001 for confidential and impartial advice or any questions and queries that you may have.

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