Same-sex Couples

Get in Touch

Same-sex Couples

Same-sex Couplespre-nuptial-agreementsnullity-of-marriage-Ireland-deirdre-burke-orpen-franks

Same Sex Marriage* in Ireland

Before the Marriage Equality Referendum was passed in 2015, same sex couples in Ireland could only legally commit to each other via Civil Partnerships. That has all changed since the passing of the Referendum and introduction of the Marriage Act 2015.

So Civil Partnerships are now no longer an option, because same sex couples can marry.  Couples already in a civil partnership can now marry or choose to remain as they are – their relationship is still legally recognised.

What is a civil partnership?

In civil partnership, the State was legally recognising a relationship between two people of the same sex. Civil partnership was a different legal union to that of civil marriage. However, civil partners still enjoy most of the same rights and responsibilities of a married couple. The ways you could enter into a civil partnership and a civil marriage were almost identical.

Up to the Marriage Act 2015, all same sex couples could enter into a civil partnership, if they were aged 18 years or over and not already married or in an existing civil partnership. This partnership is still legally recognised if the couple have not chosen to subsequently marry.

Civil partnership provides the same kids of protections and rights to same-sex couples as those in civil marriages. It also provides a significant set of mutual obligations for each civil partner, e.g. to financially maintain your partner and share resources.

What Happens When a Civil Partnership breaks down?

The courts can grant a decree of nullity of civil partnership in broadly the same way as they grant decrees of nullity of marriage. The courts are also able to dissolve civil partnerships in a similar way to granting divorce.

In dissolving civil partnerships, courts can issue orders such as protection orders, maintenance orders and pension adjustment orders.  The orders process is the same as for judicial separation and divorce.

There are some differences though. In divorce, the couples’ legal advisers are required to discuss the possibility of reconciliation, mediation or other alternatives to dissolution. This is not the case for civil partnership. However, the court may adjourn proceedings to explore such alternatives.

The Rights of Same Sex Couples in Ireland

Same sex couples now have the same right to marry as opposite sex couples. Couples in a civil partnership are also entitled to marry. Married same sex couples generally have the same legal rights and entitlements as opposite sex couples. But not in every area.

One key issue is that same sex couples don’t have the same parental rights as opposite sex couples.  For example, only the birth mother can be registered as a parent, though her spouse can apply for guardianship after a 2-year period. The Child and Family Relationships Act 2015 seeks to address this issue. However, the relevant sections of this Act are not yet in place.

If you need advice or support on any of the issues raised above, please call Deirdre Burke on 01 637 6200 or email her at

Useful Links:

Citizens Information:  Rights of Same Sex Couples – read here

LGBT: Parenting – read here

*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.

Contact Us


Orpen Franks Solicitors

28 & 30 Burlington Road, Dublin 4, Ireland

Telephone: +353 1 637 6200

Facsimile: +353 1 637 6262