Government to legislate for recognition of UK divorces after Brexit

Proposals to be brought forward ahead before end of the EU-UK transition period

Photograph: iStock

The Government is bringing forward new legislation to recognise UK divorces in Ireland after the Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has secured Cabinet approval to address this issue of family law in legislation should the EU and UK fail to agree a post-transition agreement, as signalled in the Government’s Brexit preparedness plan, published earlier this month.

The UK’s departure from the EU has raised concerns about the potential for “limping marriages” – unions that are recognised in one jurisdiction but not in another.

Divorces, legal separations and marriage annulments within the EU are automatically recognised across member states under a 2005 EU regulation but domestic legislation is required to ensure the recognition of UK divorces post-Brexit.


The 2016 census shows that there were 10,615 separated or divorced UK nationals living in the State, down from 11,099 five years earlier.

“I am conscious that in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, EU law will no longer apply to legal proceedings involving the UK once the Brexit transition period comes to an end. Among the areas affected are family law matters,” said Ms McEntee.

Omnibus Bill

The Minister is bringing forward new legislation similar to the Family Law Act 2019 that recognised UK divorces in the event of a disorderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU.

The legislative proposals will be included in the Government’s next omnibus Bill, which will be brought forward by the Minister for Foreign Affairs “in due course”, said Ms McEntee.

“This would enable the issue to be dealt with speedily, before the transition period expires,” she said.

The proposed legislation would confirm the recognition of divorces granted in the UK would continue to be on the basis of habitual residence rather than the domicile rules that apply to the recognition of divorces granted in non-EU states.

Irish courts recognise foreign divorces where either or both spouses were domiciled in the overseas country that granted the divorce at the time the proceedings were started.

The Department of Justice has said wider issues around the recognition of foreign divorces would be addressed at a later stage when the Law Reform Commission has completed its examination of this area of law.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times