A cohabitants' agreement could be a wise investment
I am a young trained farmer, having taken over the reins of the family farm four years ago from my parents. Although they did not transfer the farm to me at the time, I have had the benefit of all of the farm income since then. When I took over the farm I was in a long term relationship, however we decided not to get married but to live together for the foreseeable future. The relationship has ended recently and my parents want to transfer the farm to me now. Can my ex-partner make a claim for maintenance on the family farm?
Answer: The concept of the 'family' under Irish law has changed in recent years and particularly since 2010, both to provide protection for those in same sex relationships and those who cohabit/live together but chose, for one reason or another, not to get married. In the case at hand, the issue lies in whether an ex-partner could claim a maintenance payment from the value of the family farm as a result of the cohabiting relationship.
While the ordinary understanding of cohabiting or living together may apply to more than couples in a committed relationship (for example siblings, who are specifically excluded from this protection under the legislation), the law around financial protection of the cohabitee does not extend to all persons living together.
Who is considered a cohabitee?
Only couples who fall under the definition of 'qualified cohabitants' will be affected by the rights and obligations created in law. In order to be considered qualified cohabitants you must be in an intimate relationship and you must not have married or entered a civil partnership (a registered same sex partnership) with your co-habitant. Under the current law, there is no difference in the way that same sex and opposite sex cohabiting couples are treated.
How long was the cohabitation?
If a couple has been living together and are parents of one or more dependent children of the relationship, they become qualified cohabitants after a period of two years, however, in almost all other cases, they must be living together for a period of five years or more. Whether or not the case at hand falls into the category of 'qualified cohabitees' will depend on the length of time you lived together.
What protection does the law provide?