Divorce and the Constitution

 

Sir, – I am concerned that much of the debate surrounding the upcoming regulation of divorce referendum misses the point. The four-year requirement in our Constitution, before initiating divorce proceedings, is there to protect all of us.

It provides that valuable emotional distance, so necessary before facing the rigours of the legal system.

Anyone who enters and lives their marriage in good faith needs this space to overcome the inner turmoil and devastation involved; the grief, shock, denial, disappointment, loss of self-confidence, before exploring paths to reconciliation, and dealing with long-term issues such as parenting, living arrangements, and property.

This proposal is presented as being about those trapped in some legal layby. It’s not. If the Government were interested, it could easily act to make the family law process more streamline, simpler, faster and cheaper. This would reduce the stress on all involved.

The Government’s record on marriage is appalling. They have not only failed to publicise marriage peer-support and counselling services, but have actually withdrawn funding from them.

If passed, this proposal will have the effect of marginalising and demoralising anyone wanting to seek reconciliation.

Our constitutional and legal framework sets the mood music for our relationships. Marriage demands of us a love which takes us out of ourselves and our comfort zone, even forgiveness. It also offers children the best start in life.

Let’s not diminish what is left of our public understanding of marriage. We could end up presenting marriage to the next generation as a fairytale, only worth flirting with briefly, in essence little more than cohabitation. – Yours, etc,

GEARÓID DUFFY,

Cork.

Sir, – The Irish electorate will be asked to vote in an important referendum on divorce tomorrow. As a coalition of civil society organisations, we are calling for a Yes vote so that we can have a better, more compassionate process for people who need it.

On Friday, people will be asked to approve an amendment to the Constitution to remove the requirement for spouses to live apart for a minimum of four years out of the preceding five when applying for a divorce. The new proposals would reduce that to two years out of the previous three. For people who got divorced abroad, a Yes vote means the legislature will be able to clarify the law on the recognition of foreign divorces.

By voting Yes, we can reduce some of the stress and conflict linked to the divorce process. We will be able to give a couple the time they need to make the decision that is right for them and their children. A shorter divorce process will also be beneficial for children who will have greater clarity about their living situation. The referendum will not change the constitutional requirements that before a divorce can be granted a court must be satisfied that proper provision has been made for both spouses and their children and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

The Constitution is not the right place to deal with complex personal relationships. By voting Yes on Friday we can create a more compassionate and supportive divorce process for couples and families in Ireland. – Yours, etc,

ORLA O’CONNOR,

Director,

National Women’s

Council of Ireland;

LIAM HERRICK,

Executive Director,

Irish Council

for Civil Liberties;

EILIS BARRY,

Chief Executive,

FLAC (Free Legal

Advice Centres);

KAREN KIERNAN,

Chief Executive,

One Family,

Dublin 7;

KEITH WALSH,

Lawyers For Yes,

Dublin 2.