Family Law Update: Proposed changes to Divorce Law

On the 24th November 1995, just over 50% of the Irish public voted in favour of legalising Divorce.

In May of this year, it is now becoming increasingly likely that the Government will hold the first referendum on Divorce since it was legalised 23 years ago.

What is a Decree of Divorce?

A Decree of Divorce can only be granted by a Court and essentially ends a marriage. On foot of a Decree of Divorce being granted, both parties are free to remarry.  The Court may also make Orders regarding division of the marital assets and how any dependent children are to be looked after.

Current Legal Requirements

Before a Divorce can be granted, the following requirements must be met:

  • The parties must have been living separate and apart from one another for a period of four out of the previous five years before applying for a Divorce.
  • There must be no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
  • The Court must be satisfied that proper provision will be made for dependent spouses and/or children.

Proposed Changes

It is anticipated that the referendum, which is likely to be held in early summer of this year, will put the option to voters as to whether they wish for the current legal requirements in respect of Divorce law to be eased.

It is likely that the Government will propose to either reduce the length of time that parties must be deemed to be living separate and apart from each other from four of the previous five years to two years. There is also some discussion at present as to whether the requirement whereby parties must live separate and apart prior to obtaining a Decree of Divorce should be abolished altogether.

It has been reported that consultations between the Government and opposition parties in respect of the proposed changes to Divorce law in this country commenced at the end of last year.  Therefore, it remains to be seen as to what precisely will be put to the public in May.