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March 2010


How does the programme for government affect family law? 

The programme for government says that as soon as resources permit the government will institute a constitutional amendment to allow the establishment of a distinct and separate system of family court to streamline family law processes and make them more efficient and less costly.  They will encourage and facilitate use of mediation to resolve commercial, civil and family disputes in order to speed up resolution of disputes, reduce legal costs and lessen the stress of contested court proceedings.

The government will create an enforcement mechanism for District Court maintenance orders in family cases. 

The government intend reforming and modernising aspects of family law yet to be decided.

The government intend enacting legislation to consolidate and reform the law on adoption.

The government intend to fundamentally reform the delivery of child protection services by removing Child Welfare Protection from the HSE and creating a dedicated a Child Welfare and Protection Agency. 

The government still have to amend tax and social welfare law in respect of Civil Partnerships.  While the civil partnership will give certain rights and obligations of co-habitant Act, 2010 that came into force on 1st January 2011, the tax and social welfare legislation has not been amended as yet.

Since the 1st January 2011, under Section 172 of the 2010 Act, a co-habitant is defined as one of two adults, whether of the same or opposite sex, who live together as a couple in an intimate and committed relationship and who are not related to each other within the prohibited degrees of relationship, are not married to each other or civil partners of each other.  The Court will take into account:-

a. The duration of the relationship
b. The basis on which the couple live together
c. The degree of financial dependence of either adult on the other and any agreement in respect of their finances
d. The degree in nature of any financial arrangements between the adults including any joint purchase of an estate or interest in land or joint acquisition of personal property    
e. Whether there are one or more dependent children
f. Whether one of the adults cares for and supports the children of the other
g. The degree to which adults present themselves to others as a couple.

Only a qualified co-habitant can apply for redress from the Court.  Section 172(5) defines a qualified co-habitant.  Under Section 173(2) the qualified co-habitant must satisfy the Court that he or she is financially dependent on the other co-habitant and that their financial dependence arises from the relationship or the ending of a relationship before the Court can grant “redress orders”.
We are happy to advise as to civil partnership and co-habitant’s rights and can prepare agreements between co-habiting couples as to property, etc., and advise as to property rights of the parties. 

Please check back for further updates at a later date