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Posts Tagged ‘cohabitants’

Civil Partnership Bill Second Stage This Evening

December 3, 2009 4 comments

The second stage debate on the Civil Partnership Bill takes place this evening starting from 6.45 pm. We have already blogged about the bill herehere and here. Maman Poulet has been providing excellent coverage of the politics around the Bill here. Of particular interest is discussion of the addition of a so-called ‘religious freedom optout‘ to the bill. Padraig has blogged on that issue here. Maman Poulet carries details of a liveblog of the debate, which is hosted here and will kick off at around 6.30 pm. You can join in on twitter, where the hashtag is #cpbill. And, as Suzy says ‘if you just want to watch the debate without the wit, banter and outrage of the viewing masses then you can watch it here.

Civil Partnership Bill – The Cohabitation Provisions

November 2, 2009 4 comments

As a supplement to Fiona’s timely post on the Civil Partnership Bill 2009 and its implications for same-sex couples, I wanted to expand on the Bill’s undernourished second child; its cohabitation provisions. These are of relevance both to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.  The most important element of the  Bill is Part 15;  a hybrid redress-contract ancillary relief regime which will apply to the breakdown of relationships between ‘qualified cohabitants’ (those who have been living together for 3 years; 2 where they have a child together).  The legislation takes its cue, by and large, from the Law Reform Commission’s Report The  Rights and Duties of Cohabitees. The contract element concerns the proposed statutory recognition of property agreements between cohabitants. The cohabitation agreement provisions represent an important move towards recognition of ‘private ordering’ in Irish family law. Cohabitation agreements will be enforceable subject to certain limited formalities.  The court may set aside a provision in an agreement only in exceptional circumstances where its enforceability would cause serious injustice. There is, as yet, no comparable provision for a married couple to order their financial and property affairs before or in the course of marriage: The Report of the Study Group on Pre-nuptial Agreements is instructive here. It would be very interesting to see how the courts – which have by and large jealously guarded their wide powers to redistribute assets and income upon divorce or judicial separation  – would respond to cohabitation agreements.  However, the primary aim of the cohabitants’ scheme is to recognise the financial interdependence of partners in a non-marital couple by empowering a court, in the exercise of its discretion, to make any of a range of  orders to provide for a financially vulnerable ex-partner when a relationship ends.  This is the redress element.

The human rights implications are set out in the IHRC’s excellent 2006 Report; The Rights of De Facto Couples and many were also raised in the All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution Hearings on Family Issues in 2005. In short, this legislation represents a significant expansion of the boundaries of  ‘legitimate family forms’ at Irish law beyond that founded on marriage and brings  our law much closer to the hospitable vision of respect for private and family life embodied in the ECtHR Article 8 jurisprudence.  Of course, it falls far short of the constitutional reform – recommended by the IHRC – which would place unmarried couples on firmer ground at the basic level of Irish law. Insofar as it represents a move towards recognition of the non-marital family, the Bill has attracted criticism from the Catholic Church, which sees it as establishing parity between unmarried and married  heterosexual couples.

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