How The Divorce Referendum Will Help Separating Couples

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Since divorce was introduced in Ireland in 1996, It’s been compulsory for couples to be separated for 4 years before they could start divorce proceedings.  Now there is a divorce referendum planned for May of this year (2019), which proposes to reduce this waiting time. Hopefully, the waiting period will be halved to 2-years, which will take a lot of strain off separating couples and their families.

About The Divorce Referendum

The referendum stems from legislation proposed by current Culture Minister Josepha Madigan as far back as 2016. She proposed to reduce the waiting time for Divorce in Ireland from 4 years and introduce 2-year divorce.

Such a change requires an amendment to the Constitution, but the reduction in the waiting time will without doubt ease the burden upon couples and families, in regulating their affairs after marital breakdown. However, a final wording on reducing or halving the existing 4 year period has yet to be reached.

How The Divorce Referendum Will Help

Due to the 4-year rule, couples in Ireland must effectively go through two processes: separation and divorce. Legal separation is usually necessary because important matters such as maintenance, access, and what happens to the family home, cannot wait 4 years for decisions to be made.  Where couples can come to common agreements on these issues, this delay may not always be a major issue. But where couples cannot agree on these key issues, they are then faced with two alternatives:

  • They take issues such as custody, access and maintenance to the District Court, or
  • They apply to the Circuit Court for an overall Decree of Judicial Separation to cover all issues.

Taking your family issues to court can be traumatic, costly and time consuming. Then after the 4 years, a further court application is still necessary to obtain a Divorce, so these families face a further round of legal proceedings. Reducing the period to 2 years may make legal separation unnecessary for many couples and ease the financial burden of legal fees which arise, if the couple cannot reach agreement.

If you need advice or support on any of the issues raised above,please call Alan Finnerty on 01 637 6200. Or you can email him at


*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.

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