This Friday’s divorce referendum is asking voters whether or not to ease the restrictions on divorce in Ireland and remove the minimum waiting period of four years from the Constitution.
What is proposed is the removal entirely of the waiting period to apply for divorce from the Constitution, and for its regulation to be positioned within the remit of the Oireachtas
Divorce Law Now
Under the current regime, the Constitution only allows divorce where spouses have lived apart for four years out of the previous five.
What this referendum is asking
If Ireland votes ‘Yes’, then the Constitution will change.
The Constitution will no longer require a person applying for a divorce to have lived apart from his or her spouse for at least four years.
The minimum period of four years of living apart set out in the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 will continue to apply, unless and until the Oireachtas changes the law.
While not definitively decided as yet, it is likely that the new laws that would follow a yes vote will provide for a reduced two-year waiting period, making divorce more accessible and facilitating parties to more quickly secure a resolution of their rights and obligations.
This referendum is not about being ‘for’ or ‘against’ divorce, as divorce already exists. It is about dealing with the reality of marital break-up.
The current four-year waiting period means that many families have to first undergo a judicial separation to deal with custodial or financial issues that simply cannot be put to one side for four years and this adds to the trauma and cost for both parties. It is like getting divorced twice!
Time may change but the issues remain the same
While couples who are navigating their way through the a divorce may welcome a change to wait times for divorce, the main sticking points will remain the same.
Who gets what?
When going through a divorce, rational discussion about division of assets can be extremely difficult. If a divorcing couple cannot decide between themselves how best to split their assets, the Court will still have to step in as final arbitrator and take the decision away from them.
What will a court consider if it comes to a fight?
The courts will still have look to make what is called “proper provision” for the parties involved.
This will continue to include looking at:
- Income, earning capacity and other financial resources;
- Financial needs and obligations;
- Age, duration of the marriage and length of time living together;
- Standard of living;
- Any relevant special needs;
- Contributions made to the welfare of the family;
- Accommodation needs;
How can we help?
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The material contained in this blog is provided for general information purposes only and does not amount to legal or other professional advice. While every care has been taken in the preparation of the information, we advise you to seek specific advice from us about any legal decision or course of action.