Government approves new law reducing waiting time for divorce

Minister is also to introduce measures on recognition of UK divorces due to Brexit threat

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan speaking earlier this year ahead of the referendum to amend the constitutional provisions on divorce. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan speaking earlier this year ahead of the referendum to amend the constitutional provisions on divorce. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The Government has approved legislative proposals that will reduce the required separation period for couples who want to get divorced.

At its meeting on Tuesday, the Cabinet approved proposals made by the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, that will reduce the required period during which couples have to be separated to two years out of the previous three, from the existing four years out of the previous five.

Mr Flanagan’s proposed new law will also reduce to one year the minimum living apart period that applies to judicial separation applications where the other person does not consent to the decree being granted. Currently the required period is three years.

The proposed one year period is in line with other minimum living apart periods for judicial separation applications.

The Family Law Bill 2019, which was approved by Cabinet, comes in the wake of the referendum on divorce earlier this year.

In the May 24th poll, voters supported by a margin of more than four to one the removal of the separation period required for divorce from the Constitution so it could be changed through ordinary legislation. They also supported modernising the provision on recognition of foreign divorces.

Due to the threat of a no-deal Brexit, Mr Flanagan is also to introduce measures on the recognition of divorces, legal separations, and annulments granted under UK law.

This will mean that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, UK decisions will be recognised here under similar rules to decisions granted within the EU.

As Mr Flanagan worked with parties on all sides in advance of bringing forward the referendum proposals, he is hopeful that the proposed legislation that has now been approved, will make swift progress through the Oireachtas, according to one informed source.

In the run-up to the referendum, campaigners for change argued that the more than 4,000 couples that separate annually would be spared lengthy emotional and financial distress if there were quicker divorces in Ireland.

They said the current rule requiring divorcing couples to live apart for four years resulted in more legal costs and was more “damaging” for any children involved.

Ireland has a divorce rate of one in 10, which is one of the lowest in the world. However, for those couples who want to separate, the separation period rule delayed their getting to move on with their lives, campaigners for a shorter qualifying separation period argued.

They said that even with the reduced separation period requirement, the Irish regime did not provide for “quickie” divorces.