The legal aspects of cohabitation were fundamentally changed recently and with very little publicity. There will be many cohabiting couples unaware of the changed rights and responsibilities arising from their cohabitation.

The law in relation to cohabitation and cohabiting couples was changed very significantly in 2010 with the introduction of the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010. The Act defines cohabitants as two same-sex or opposite-sex adults who are:

– Not married to each other and

– Not in a registered civil partnership and

– Not related within the prohibited degrees of relationship and

– Living together in an intimate and committed relationship

Cohabitants (cohabiting couples) do not possess the same legal rights and obligations as married couples or civil partnerships. However there is now a legal recognition of the cohabiting relationship and this has important and significant implications for any cohabiting couple.

The law addresses various issues associated with cohabitation and there are new rights and responsibilities to be considered, such as:

Property rights

Property rights after the breakdown of a cohabiting relationship

Redress scheme for cohabiting couples

The legal guardianship of children

The custody of children

Access rights relating to children



Inheritance rights


Access to fertility services