A civil partnership can be annulled if it is shown to be invalid. The application can be made by either partner or by another person who has an interest, e.g., a child after the death of the other. A civil partnership may be potentially annulled on the following grounds:
- either or both who are already married;
- either or both who are under 18 years,
- either or both are already registered in another civil partnership;
- the formalities were not observed
- either or both did not give free and unhindered consent;
Consent may be negated by
- undue pressure,
- lack of intention to accept the other as a civil partner
- inability to give informed consent as attested by a consulting psychiatrist;
- within the probable degrees of relationship;
- parties are not of the same sex.
When a decree of nullity is granted or declared, the civil partnership is deemed not to have existed. However, the rights of persons who have relied on the existence of the partnership are not prejudiced.
Dissolution & Mediation
A civil partnership may be dissolved in proceedings similar to divorce proceedings. A decree of dissolution may be granted if the court is satisfied as of the date of the proceedings, the civil partners have lived apart for a period amounting to at least 2 years in the previous three and provision that the court considers proper at the circumstances exist or will be made for the civil partners.
The court may adjourn proceedings of its own initiative or with the assistance of a third party with a view to reconciliation or reaching an agreement in relation to the terms of the proposed dissolution. Either or both parties may request an adjournment.
Proceedings may be adjourned, and parties may be advised by the court to seek the assistance of a mediator or third party in relation to a proposed reconciliation or reaching an agreement on some or all of the terms of the dissolution. Evidence may not be admitted in relation to communications in connection with a prospective mediation or equivalent agreement.
Where a decree of dissolution of the civil partnership is granted, either partner may enter a new partnership or may marry.
Preliminary applications may be made in a dissolution application equivalent to those in marriage. They include applications for safety orders, barring orders, maintenance orders, periodical payments and lump sum payment orders.
On granting a decree of dissolution, much the same remedies for property division and much the same principles apply as in the case of judicial separation and divorce. The criteria are broadly similar.
Periodical or lump sum payments may be ordered. Provision may be made for securing the payment. A lump sum may be payable by installments.
The period for payment of maintenance payments may be for up to the lifetime of the respondent civil partner. The order cease to have effect upon the marriage or new civil partnership of the civil partner. An attachment of earnings order may be made to secure a support payments order.
The various remedies can be granted at the time of dissolution or another time.
The special short-form procedures for property disputes between spouses is applied to civil partners. Either in matrimonial proceedings or in separate short form proceedings, questions regarding the title and ownership of the property of civil partners may be determined without full civil proceedings.
Property adjustment orders may be made in the same way as in divorce. The court may order property to be settled or a trust to be created. Orders may be made varying settlements made by the civil partners, whether by will or otherwise. An order may be made restricting the possibility of a variation of the order in the future.
Property adjustment orders may be lodged in the Land Registry or Registry of Deeds in order to give effect to them. An order may be made directing a person to transfer a property, or if they refuse to do directing or authorizing another person to make the transfer on their behalf.
Possible orders include
- rights granted for life or other periods to occupy the shared home to the exclusion of one civil partner;
- orders directing the sale of the shared home subject to stated conditions regarding the sale proceeds;
- orders under domestic violence legislation;
- orders or partition of property.
Civil partners may be required to make and pay financial compensation upon the granting of dissolution or at any time thereafter. This may require
- effecting a life policy;
- assigning an existing life policy or making payments to a third person to maintain the policy.
The basis of such an order is that the financial security can be provided and the forfeiture by the applicant of the opportunity of acquiring a benefit (for example, a benefit under a pension scheme) by reason of the decree of dissolution can be compensated wholly or partly by making the order. The court will consider the totality of other orders and provisions made. Such an order ceases upon entry into a new civil partnership, the marriage or the death of the applicant.
Pension adjustment orders can be made in much the same way as in judicial separation and divorce. The application may be granted at the time of dissolution or at any time thereafter on the application of either party. The orders will specify the period of service required taken into account and the percentage of benefit to be paid to the other civil partner.
Where an order is made prior to retirement, a transfer amount equal to value of the designated benefit may be moved from the pension scheme. Alternatively, it may be required to be maintained separately within the scheme.
Upon the granting of dissolution or within one year afterwards, the death in service benefits may be the subject of an order. Such an order may be in addition to or substitution for another order. The trustees may be directed in a particular manner, notwithstanding that it may breach the scheme rules.
Where provision is made for the payment of lump sums to another scheme or for retention of the payment within the scheme, certain conditions apply. The cost incurred by the scheme may be borne by the parties.
A civil partner may, after the death of his civil partner but not more than 6 months after the grant of representation, may apply for an order for provision from the estate of the deceased civil partner. The court may make provisions for the applicant as the court considers proper, having regard to the rights of the other person having an interest in the matter.
If the court is satisfied that proper provision was not made for the applicant during the lifetime of the deceased, for any reason other than the conduct of the applicant, which the court regards, it is unjust to disregard.
The right does not apply to a civil partner who has entered a new civil partnership or who has married since the date of the dissolution.
In considering whether to make an order, the court must have regard to all the circumstances, including other orders and provisions which have been made by way of permanent provision, as well as benefits received from the will of the deceased. The total value of the provision made is not to exceed the share the applicant would take in the estate of the deceased civil partner, had the civil partnership not being dissolved.
The personal representative must make reasonable attempts to ensure that death is brought to the attention of the other civil partner. Where an application is made, the personal representative may not distribute the assets until the matter has been decided.
The civil partner must notify the personal representative not later than one month after receipt of the notice of death as to whether he or she intends to make an application, has obtained an order or intends to do so. If the notice is not given, the personal representative may distribute the assets and is not liable to the civil partner for the distribution.
Sale of Property
The court may make an order directing the sale of property in which both partners have a beneficial interest. It may make a secured periodical payment, a lump sum payment. It should not exercise the jurisdiction in a way which would affect the civil partner’s right to occupy the shared home by virtue of an order under the act.
Provisions can be made in connection with the manner of sale and certain other related matters. In deciding whether and to what extent to make orders, the court has regard to all the factors, including the protection or the following:
- respective income earning capacity, property and other financial resources of each;
- respective financial needs, obligations and responsibilities of each at present and for the foreseeable future in both cases;
- their prior standard of living;
- respective ages, duration and length of civil partnership;
- physical and mental disability of either;
- contributions made or likely to be made in the foreseeable future to the welfare of the civil partners, including any contribution made by each of them to the income, earning capacity, property and financial resources of the other, and any contribution made by either of them by
- looking after the shared home;
- the effect on the earning capacity of each of the civil partners of the civil partnership responsibilities assumed by each during the period when they lived with one another after the registration of their civil partnership and the degree to which the future earning capacity of a civil partner is impaired by reason of that civil partner having relinquished or foregone the opportunity of remunerative activity in order to look after the shared home;
- any income or benefits to which either of the civil partners is entitled by or under statute;
- the conduct of each of the civil partners, if that conduct is such that, in the opinion of the court, it would in all the circumstances be unjust to disregard;
- the accommodation needs of both of the civil partners;
- the value to each of the civil partners of any benefit (for example, a benefit under a pension scheme) which, by reason of the decree of dissolution, a civil partner will forfeit the opportunity or possibility of acquiring; and
- the rights of any person other than the civil partners but including a person with whom either civil partner is registered in a new civil partnership or to whom the civil partner is married, or any child to whom either of the civil partners owes an obligation of support.
A court may make retrospective periodical payment orders.
Subject to conditions, partners or other persons with an interest in the matter, such as successors of a deceased partner or new spouses or civil partner, may make an application to vary, discharge, suspend or revive certain orders.
The orders concerned include
- periodical payment orders,
- lump sum orders,
- financial compensation orders,
- property adjustment orders, to the extent that variation is not restricted by the original order,
- pension adjustments orders to the extent that variation is not excluded.
The court may set aside transactions which were intended to prevent or reduce assets in the event of the dissolution of a civil partnership. These are equivalent to the provisions for setting aside such transactions in the case of divorce, and judicial separation, which is designed to prevent, limit, or frustrate the enforcement of rights and reliefs.
Transactions made revised and set aside in the same manner.
The Circuit Court and the High Court have jurisdiction and powers in relation to civil partnership matters. The District Court has powers in relation to maintenance issues with periodical payments of up to €500 per week.
The court may exercise jurisdiction in relation to civil partnership matters if the parties of the proceedings reside or an ordinarily resident for at least one year.
Major matters are determined by the Circuit Court. Where the property valuation exceeds €3,00000, the High Court has jurisdiction.
Civil partnership law proceedings are to as informal as practicable and consistent with the administration of justice. Judges and representatives appear in court without wigs or gowns. Proceedings are heard in private.
The domestic violence protection provisions applicable between spouses apply between civil partners. They allow for the making of orders, empowering the applicant or restricting the respondent civil partner from entering the shared home on the same basis as would apply to the spouses. See our chapter on domestic violence.
Where a rule of law relates to conflicts of interest, a reference to a connected person is to include a civil partner and a child who lives with them.
Benefit under pension scheme, stated by its rules to provide for a spouse is deemed to be provided equally for the civil partner of the person concerned. Several of the references in pensions legislation are amended to refer to be civil partner status as in the same manner as the marital status.
Civil status is also a relevant ground of discrimination under employment equality and general equality legislation in the same manner as marital status.
Civil partners are given equivalent rights as partners under powers of attorney legislation as dependents in a civil liability claim.