The definition of co- habitees does not include couples who live together and are relatives.
Co-habitees are couples of same or opposite sex who are in an intimate and committed relationship who are not related within a probited degree of relationship and who are not married to one another or registered as civil partners. Under the provisions of the Redress Scheme, the Bill, if enacted, will allow cohabitees, whether same or opposite sex, to apply for maintenance, protection of shared property/home, pensions and succession (inheritance) rights. The normal domestic violence provisions will also be extended to co-habitees. Some relief is presently afforded under our Domestic Violence legislation to non marital couples but this has been widely criticised as not being broad enough and restricted in unpalatable ways. It is after all in the public interest that everyone would be safe in their own homes and protected from domestic violence, whether married or not. This Bill finally leaps that hurdle. Rights under the Redress Scheme will arise after 3 years in the case of a couple without children and 2 years in the case of a couple with children.
The Bill will go into its second stage this month as mentioned already. In its present form it is likely to be keenly debated. It falls short of providing equality between married couples and unmarried couples and is probably best described as a half way house. It does however provide a much needed legal safety net albeit somewhat less far reaching that might be hoped.
It is worth noting that same sex couples and co-habiting opposite sex couples can avail themselves of the wonderful opportunities now available under the provisions of alternative dispute resolution. The time to enter into such agreements is when you are embarking on the adventure of your relationship. This is when you will want to do the best by one another and when your reasoning powers will not be impaired by the vulnerabilities that are dominant when the relationship breaks down. This is the opportunity to make proper provisions for any dependent children. The collaborative model in particular offers a fantastic opportunity to couples embarking on a committed relationship to enter into a legally binding agreement. Collaborative practitioners are committed to interest based bargaining rather than position based bargaining and to enhancing communication rather than fracturing it. They are specifically trained in such skills as well as their legal skills. Most collaborative solicitors are also mediators and bring those skills to bear on the issues. Collaborative solicitors work with each other in a co-operative and team like manner to bring about solutions and resolutions rather than to escalate disputes. There is no correspondence and no positioning and all business is conducted on a face to face basis. No work is undertaken without discussion and transparency is a hall mark for everyone in the process. Besides the lawyers, collaborative practise also extends to other professionals who can be employed by the team on a needs basis such as communication specialists (collaborative coaches) child specialists and financial specialists. All team members including the parties work together in a non-hierarchical structure but to a well laid out and co-ordinated plan. No all solicitors are collaboratively trained. For a list of qualified practitioners consult the website www.acp.ie.