OPINION: Tipperary people! Living with someone - are there legal implications?

John Lynch writing in this week's Nationalist

John Lynch

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John Lynch of Lynch Solicitors

There are a great variety of people who live together and can, probably, be grouped in these categories:
*The casual cohabitants who drift into living together.
*Those living together as a forerunner to marriage.
*The conscientious objectors to marriage.
*The battle scarred, separated and divorced persons who do not want to commit again.
*Those who live together because they could not marry (pre divorce).
*Those who believe that they are married to each other after a foreign divorce.

Whatever the group you might fall into, The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 set out rights in two distinct situations that can end a cohabitating relationship – breakup and death.

A starting point - who is a cohabitant?
A cohabitant is one of two adults (whether of the same or the opposite sex) who “live together” as a couple in an “intimate and committed relationship”. The relationship must be more than a “mere friendship” or dating relationship but the parties do not have to be living “physically at all times in the same shared premises”. “Intimate and committed” means that the parties must be, or must have been, sexually intimate. The Court will look at the checklist set out in the Act, such as the length of the relationship and financial arrangements. However the degree of shared activities, household chores and shared holidays can also be accepted as proof of an intimate and committed relationship.

How long do you have to be living together?
To avail of the Act, you must be a “qualifying cohabitant” for:
*Two years, if you have dependent children, or
*Five years, in any other case.
*The period of cohabitation has to be one continuous period and if married, you must entitled to be divorced.

What do you need to prove?
In a break-up situation, you must prove that they are “financially dependent” .
In making decisions, the Court ,in particular, will look at: *The length of the relationship.
*The basis on which you live together.
*Agreements on finances or the degree of financial dependence.
*The nature of any financial arrangements, including any joint property purchases.
*Whether there are dependent children.
*Whether one cares or supports the children of the other.
*The degree to which you present yourselves as a couple.
*If the court is satisfied that it is “just and equitable” it may make certain financial orders – such a transfer of property, maintenance or pension payments.
*If a partner dies, there is no financial dependency requirement.

How long do you have – are there a time limits?
Where the relationship breaks-up, a claim must be made within two years. If a partner dies during the relationship, a claim must be made within two years. If one of the cohabitants dies within the two years of the relationship ending, the surviving partner has a further six months from looking after the legal formalities to make a claim.
The Court has power to extend this period in exceptional circumstances.

Footnote – you don’t have to go to court?
The Act provides that cohabitants can enter into a cohabitants’ agreement on financial matters during or at the end of the relationship.
The agreement might simply set out that the parties opt out of any Court intervention or comprehensively set out how the couple intend to deal with the financial aspects of their relationship.
Such an agreement commonly covers who pays the household mortgage and bills, who owns the family home, what happens on breakup or death, what happens the home, inheritance rights, maintenance or pension payments.
It is worthwhile bearing in mind that a Court has the power on the ending of a relationship, if asked to do so by one of the couple, to vary or set aside a cohabitants’ agreement.
There must be exceptional circumstances such that to enforce the agreement would cause serious injustice.
A cohabitants’ agreement must be in writing and signed with legal advice.

For further advice or if you wish to discuss any other legal area please contact reception@lynchsolicitors.ie or telephone 052-6124344.

The material contained in this article is provided for general information purposes only and does not amount to legal or other professional advice.

While every care has been taken in the preparation of the information, we advise you to seek specific advice from us about any legal decision or course of action.