Same-sex couple make legal history with first civil partnership dissolution

More than 1,000 same-sex couples have availed of partnership

The Civil Partnership Act, which came into effect on January 1st, 2011, allows couples to begin dissolution proceedings if they have lived apart for two out of the previous three years. It also recognises civil partnerships in 27 other jurisdictions, including the UK. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

The Civil Partnership Act, which came into effect on January 1st, 2011, allows couples to begin dissolution proceedings if they have lived apart for two out of the previous three years. It also recognises civil partnerships in 27 other jurisdictions, including the UK. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 


A same-sex couple have had their civil partnership dissolved in what is believed to be the first such case to come before an Irish court.

The couple entered into a civil partnership in the United Kingdom in 2006 and subsequently moved to Ireland.

They separated in early 2010 and one of the parties took the first legal steps towards ending the partnership earlier this year.

The Civil Partnership Act, which came into effect on January 1st, 2011, allows couples to begin dissolution proceedings if they have lived apart for two out of the previous three years. It also recognises civil partnerships in 27 other jurisdictions, including the UK.

The case was heard at the end of October by a provincial Circuit Family Court.

The respondent did not enter an appearance within the time limit and the court granted the partner a decree of dissolution.

Contacted by The Irish Times, barrister Anne O’Meara, who appeared for the applicant on the instructions of Phil O’Laoide of the Legal Aid Board, said that while the case had a certain novelty value the proceedings were similar to divorce or judicial separation.

Stepping into new waters
“I was conscious of the fact that this was probably one of the first and that we were stepping into new waters, as it were, but there will be a lot of these going through into the future,” she added.

In an move to provide legal recognition to same-sex couples, the Oireachtas enacted the Civil Partnership Act with all-party support in 2010.

More than 1,000 same-sex couples across all counties have availed of this since the first ceremony in April 2011, but supporters of an extension in marriage rights point to a large number of statutory differences between civil partnership and marriage.

For example, civil partnership does not permit children to have a legally recognised relationship with their parents – only with the biological one. Neither does it recognise same-sex couples’ rights to many social supports.