Time to shake up (and speed up) the divorce courts!

As our country prepares to go to the polls tomorrow, we will be asked whether we want to change the current legislation regarding the regulation of divorce.

What are the proposed changes?

We are being asked to vote on two proposals.

  • The first is regarding the length of time that people have lived apart before they can be granted a divorce.

Currently the spouses must be living apart for four out of the past five years to be eligible for divorce, we are being asked whether we want to remove this.

  • The second proposal is regarding the recognition of foreign divorces.

At the moment the Constitution prevents people who have got a divorce that isn't recognised under Irish law from getting married again during their former spouse's lifetime.

Some foreign divorces are recognised by the State under existing law and different rules apply depending on where and when it was obtained. The proposal is that divorces granted under the civil law of another country would be recognised.

There will be a single question on the ballot paper to change both.

A No vote would keep the Constitution as it is.

As it currently stands, the timeline it can take to complete a divorce in Ireland, in my view and experience in the family law courts, causes unnecessary emotional stress and trauma, prolonging legal battles and quite frankly, unneeded legal costs.

In addition, I would certainly support the simplification of the recognition of foreign divorces and would deem the entire system too complex and outdated. Voting Yes, would mean a person who got divorced abroad, will have their current living situation better recognised in Ireland.

The Constitution requires spouses, including people experiencing domestic violence, infidelity, and other various difficult reasons as to why they have suffered a marital breakdown, to remain married, but live apart for a minimum of four years before divorce proceedings can be commenced.

Voting YES would allow for this time limit to be decided in legislation. The current proposal is for a time limit of two years. If passed, it would remove harmful restrictions on divorce from the Constitution that cause huge upset, uncertainty and conflict for families and children.

For a couple to put themselves through the personal and financial turmoil of a divorce, you can only assume, it has been the hardest decision of their lives and the only option left available to them. It can be an extremely difficult process, and if passed, would allow more compassion to these families, whilst still giving them the time they need to make the decision that is best for them and their children.

This Referendum won’t remove the need for a court to be satisfied with the provisions made for spouses and children, and the courts would still need to be satisfied that there is no reasonable prospect for reconciliation before the divorce can be granted to the spouses.

Ireland has one of the lowest divorce rates in the world and I don’t see these changes to the legislation increasing those numbers. The constitution is not the right place to deal with complex personal relationships. I have only every represented couples in divorce matters, that have given every consideration to dissolving the marriage and for many difficult reasons in relation to their own situation, it is the right decision for them to make.