Registered partnerships: what now for opposite and same-sex couples in Ireland?
While the United Kingdom remains in the European Union there is freedom of movement between the member states for English nationals.
But if you were thinking that there was any unanimity of legislation across Europe about recognition of registered partnerships (marriage or civil partnership for both same-sex or opposite-sex couples) then you would be wrong.
All EU countries provide for marriage recognition. Some provide recognition for both same-sex and heterosexual marriages (for example, England and Wales, Scotland) and some do not. Generally, all the countries that allow same-sex marriage also recognise same-sex civil registered partnerships. Some countries, such as Germany, only have civil partnerships for same-sex couples, not same-sex marriage. Other countries do not recognise civil partnerships at all, including Italy, Poland and Lithuania. Whereas some countries have civil partnerships for same-sex couples but not for heterosexual couples, England and Wales is one such jurisdiction.
The Republic of Ireland stands out, as its recent referendum has significant effects on non-married couples from May 16 2016, and is going through a period of notable change in family law generally.
There was a great deal of publicity surrounding the Irish referendum in May 2015, when the government held a referendum to decide if same-sex marriage should be celebrated and recognised. Many Irish men and women voted, some even returned to the country to do so, and the outcome was a resounding 62 per cent in favour. What was not appreciated by many people, at least in England, was that when the Irish constitution recognises same-sex marriages it in turn ceases to recognise civil partnerships in certain circumstances.
The issue comes in the ruling for only one form of “family” in Ireland being recognised, and by the new legislation this will be marriage (same-sex, or opposite sex). So from May 16, 2016, if you and your registered partner are nationals of an EU country where you could have married but chose to have a civil partnership instead (such as England), your civil partnership will not be recognised.
But not all EU countries recognise same-sex marriage: so nationals of those countries that allow only registered civil partnership will continue to be treated as before. Also, if you live in Ireland but had a civil partnership in another EU country, you cannot dissolve your partnership in Ireland.
The provisions of the different EU countries for financial compensation to the financially weaker party on the breakdown of relationships where there is no recognised registered partnership differ very widely.
English civil partners who have chosen not to marry but who could do so should be aware that in Ireland, from May 16, 2016, they will be treated as having no registered partnership at all.
This article was originally published in The Times, and can be found here.
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