Until Divorce Do Us Part - how to deal with a marital breakdown

I don't think anybody getting married envisions themselves in the divorce courts down the line but what do you do if your relationship falls apart?

In my experience, the top three reasons people get divorced are infidelity, money, and a complete communication breakdown.

These causes do not discriminate who they can affect and there can be huge upset, confusion and stress for all involved going through this process. With that being said, the complicated thing with divorce is not dissolving the marriage – it’s sorting out the issues surrounding it.

Money, the family home and custody and access of children is really where the best legal advice, can make all the difference to the process and aftermath of divorce.

If it is truly your last resort, here is what you should know before getting a divorce:

  • Live in Ireland (You can't get an Irish Divorce unless one party has being living here for a year).
  • Make sure you were married - it might sound silly but make sure it was a valid marriage before you think about a divorce.
  • Wait 4 years. The Irish Divorce Act requires that the couple must have lived apart for at least four of the five years before proceedings are issued. Check with your solicitor as to what constitutes a legal separation.
  • Break up! The court must be satisfied that there’s no reasonable prospect of reconciliation and that both the spouses (and any children) are properly provided for.
  • Have you considered all the options? The Divorce Act requires the couple’s solicitor to inform them about the options of reconciliation, mediation and separation agreements. It is in place as a means to sorting out all the contentious issues before (or instead of) going to court.
  • Custody and access. Before you get divorced (or even break up), you should do some planning about where you are going to live; how you are going to live, who is going to take care of the children, who is going to maintain the children and how that will be divided up. If  you don’t, either spouse is entitled to apply for interim remedies including orders for periodical payments (maintenance), custody of children, safety or barring orders and an order entitling one spouse to sole occupancy of the family home.
    Every family is different, every case is different. Emotions can run very high at this point and sorting this out (if possible) early on, can be extremely beneficial to all involved. 
  • Take expert legal advice. Being able to make informed decisions will help you at this difficult time. Getting advice from an experienced family law solicitor - who is conscious of the potential long term consequences, for you and your family, could make all the difference to your future. It can also reduce stress, avoid mistakes and delays and ensure your best interests are before the court. If you can’t afford a solicitor, apply for legal aid.
  • Get expert financial advice. How are your pensions going to be divided? You may need a new mortgage or to start a pension or to invest part of your spouse’s pension awarded to you on divorce.
  • Try and resolve the main issues before you arrive in court. If you don’t, the lawyers will – and that will take time and cost money. A reminder of them are the custody arrangements, family home, maintenance, pensions, and inheritance.
  • Go to court! Family law cases are informal and private. Irish Divorce Law is not fault based so it doesn't matter how badly a spouse may have behaved, they are still entitled to a divorce. For financial or property orders, it is entitled to take into account the conduct of either spouse, it would be unjust to disregard it.

Don’t try and drag the children into it. It won't do anyone any favours and it won't look good in court.

Begin again. Divorce is not the end. In lots of ways, it can be a new beginning. Make sure your rights are protected to ensure you get the best chance to do just that.