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The Family Home
What is the Family Home?
Under Irish Law, a married couple's home is referred to as a Family Home - whether they have children or not.
Under the Civil Partnership Act, civil partners' home is a Shared Home - whether they have children or not.
Why is that such a big deal?
As well as the stigma of using different language for our homes, Our Missing Pieces report identified at least 25 differences in relation to the Family Home. These include a range of issues like additional red tape for same sex couples around some housing grants and fewer protections and supports for civil partners and their families in times of crisis.
On a fundamental level, words matter. By stating that civil partners live in a Shared Home, rather than a Family Home, the legislation ensures that same sex couples who have registered a civil partnership are not recognised as (or even called) a family. This is because only a family based on marriage is recognised as a family in Irish law.
The Family Home Protection Act includes a broad definition of "dependent children", which recognises that ALL children in a married family - biological or not - are dependent children and therefore need protection. This definition does NOT apply to civil partners with children - an issue we will return to later this week.
On a more practical level, there are also issues around desertion and consent. What this means is that if one civil partner is deserted, if they wish to sell their home they are required to obtain consent from the partner that deserted them. This causes many more difficulties in an already difficult situation, and it is not something that married, heterosexual couples have to deal with, as the courts are able to dispense with a deserting spouse's consent, but not a deserting civil partner's consent.
The fact is the definition of "the family" has changed drastically since the constitution was written in 1937, and same-sex couples are a family unit like many other diverse families in Ireland. Unfortunately, only a family based in marriage is legally recognised as a family.
Family Home vs Shared Home - it's not about terminology, it's about equality.