Registration of cohabitation

As from 1 January 2016, two adults of whom at least one has residence in Estonia may enter into a registered partnership contract. An adult with restricted active legal capacity may enter into a registered partnership contract only if he or she understands sufficiently the legal consequences of such a registered partnership contract. If a guardian has been appointed to an adult with restricted active legal capacity, the ruling concerning the appointment of a guardian must state that the person is entitled to enter into a registered partnership contract. Persons of whom one is already married or a party to a valid registered partnership contract; relatives who are directly ascendants or descendants; brothers and sisters and half-brothers and half-sisters, adoptive parents and adopted children, and children adopted by the same person cannot enter into a registered partnership contract.

How to register cohabitation

A registered partnership contract can be entered into based on Estonian law irrespective of the citizenship and country of residence of one of the persons wishing to enter into a registered partnership contract. A registered partnership contract can only be entered into at a notary and both parties that wish to enter into one must be present. Notaries will explain the rights and obligations resulting from a registered partnership contract. Notaries will help draw up the parts of a registered partnership contract with regard to which the parties can conclude special agreements. The parties that wish to register their cohabitation must give their consent in order to enter into a registered partnership contract. No state fees are charged for entering into a registered partnership contract. However, both notary fees and the value added tax must be paid. The following documents are presented at a notary to enter into a registered partnership contract:

  • identity documents;
  • birth certificate;
  • in the case of people that have been married before, the divorce certificate or documentation, the divorce judgment, the death certificate (or documentation) of one’s spouse or the judgment on declaring their marriage a nullity;
  • in the case of a person that has previously entered into a registered partnership contract, a document that proves the nullity or expiry of the registered partnership contract;
  • a document that proves the removal of some other hindrance to enter into a registered partnership contract, if necessary;
  • a foreign national shall submit a certificate issued by a competent authority in his/her state of residence that proves his/her capacity to enter into a registered partnership contract (an amendment in the implementing legislation);
  • a document that proves the legality of the foreign national’s stay in Estonia, except for citizens of the Member States of the European Union (EU) and persons that are considered to be family members of an EU citizen pursuant to the Citizen of the European Union Act.

On the basis of the Registered Partnership Act, a registered partnership contract is entered in the Population Register and the selection of proprietary relationship of the parties shall be entered in the Proprietary Relationship Register.

Rights and obligations of registered partners

The obligations and rights of registered partners with respect to each other and third parties are more restricted than in the case of marriage. Registered partners are required to support and maintain each other during the period of validity of their registered partnership contract. They have equal rights and duties with respect to each other. Any obligations regarding the organisation of cohabitation or the satisfaction of common needs that do not exceed the reasonable price according to the living conditions of the registered partners are solidary (i.e. both registered partners may be required to meet the obligations in full).

Adoption

One registered partner is not granted custody of the other partner’s children based on a registered partnership contract. The parties to a registered partnership contract can agree on an arrangement of relations between the child(ren) of one party and the other registered partner, and the registered partner may submit an application for adoption to a court. A registered partner may adopt a biological child of the other registered partner or a child who was adopted by the other registered partner before the parties entered into their registered partnership contract. The law provides for an option to adopt in other situations as well to prevent extreme unfairness.

Proprietary rights

Upon entry into a registered partnership contract, the parties must choose the type of their proprietary relationship. The same types of proprietary relationships that are available when a marriage is registered can be chosen: jointness of property, set-off of assets increment, separateness of property. The parties may agree on rules that apply to the separateness of their property as well as on an obligation to pay regular amounts of money and the size thereof if their registered partnership contract is terminated. In the case that the parties wish to bequeath their property to their partner, a reciprocal will or succession contract must be concluded. Wills and succession contracts become invalid on the same basis as in the case of a reciprocal will or succession contract concluded upon entering into a marriage. Unlike in the case of marriage, legal separation fixed between registered partners has no legal consequences. This means that if registered partners wish to live separately but have not terminated their registered partnership contract, their proprietary relations are not regulated as clearly as in the case of marriage. When registered partners live separately, one partner cannot demand a part of their shared housing; if their housing is transferred to one registered partner, a user fee cannot be demanded; the distribution of consumer property is not regulated.

Termination of registered partnership contract

A registered partnership contract is terminated by agreement of the parties, upon the death of a registered partner, when the registered partners enter into a marriage, or by a court judgment. Registered partnership contracts are terminated by agreement at a notary. If the parties fail to reach an agreement, one registered partner may file an action with a court against the other registered partner. A court may terminate a registered partnership contract by a court judgment or direct it to a mandatory notarial conciliation procedure. Disputes over housing and assets related thereto are settled in court on the same bases as in the case of marriage. If a registered partnership contract is terminated, there is no further obligation to provide maintenance, unless the parties have agreed otherwise.