Divorce in Ireland
Deciding to divorce is not an easy decision to come to, before coming to this conclusion the couple will have thought about it again and again and talked through it over and over again together before making the call to a family law solicitor to talk through their options. Once a client comes to the office to discuss the options on a family law separation, more often than not their mind is made up, the marriage is over and it has taken the client a lot of courage to come to that very difficult decision and contact a Solicitor.
Getting a divorce in Ireland takes time, it is not a quick fix to a broken marriage. Before a couple can get a divorce in Ireland they must be separated for a period of 4 years.
Proposed changes to legislation on how to get a divorce in Ireland
Recently proposed legislation seeks to reduce the period of separation necessary to obtain a divorce from four to two years. The bill was proposed by Fine Gael Deputy Josepha Madigan and is set to be debated in the Oireachtas in the Autumn. If the Bill is approved a constitutional referendum would be required to change the law.
It would be a welcome change to the current legislation, but does it go far enough?
There have been calls by family law practitioners that the period should be reduced to one year and that the two year period is striking a balance between the pro-marriage and pro-divorce groups.
The Government is taking steps in the right direction but it will be a difficult task to find a balance that is fair based on the public’s beliefs. It will be an interesting debate to watch in the Autumn.
Challenges faced by a couple during the 4-year separation
The current four year separation period can be toxic for a relationship where the parties cannot legally move on with their lives and in a lot of circumstances will remain under the same roof where the atmosphere is awful until the divorce is finalised. Some of the main challenges faced by a couple decided to divorce are;
Children: the fear of how a break up will affect the child’s life, worrying about custody and how often each parent will get to see their child.
Assets: If the couple owns a house together, cars, possibly a business, the couple must decide on how the assets are going to be separated between them – this can be a source of controversy – one that can be resolved with the help of a solicitor.
Financially, the cost of separation can be very stressful for the couple – especially in cases where the couple doesn’t agree. Settlement talks can be helpful in this case with the help of solicitors.
Steps to getting a divorce in Ireland
Before a coming to that final decision to get a divorce, reconciliation should be the first option. There are cases where a marriage can be saved, after many years together, something that worked for so long, surely has a chance to be saved? Of course, every relationship is different and has its own struggles. A very good piece of advice is to seek help through marriage counselling – there are countless marriage counselling services in Ireland all on hand to help the couple through this hard time in their relationship, whether it be problems relating to alcoholism, an unfaithful spouse, money problems, constant arguing and lack of communication, lack of intimacy/sexual difficulties. Remember communication is key and could lead to the salvation of the marriage.
In cases where a marriage cannot be saved and counselling, communication could not reconcile the marriage perhaps seeking a nullity of the marriage (an annulment) is an option. An annulment means that the marriage is declared null and void by the court and basically means that the marriage never existed. In order to obtain an annulment, you must make an application to the Court. There are two types of marriages that may be annulled; void marriages and voidable marriages.
- At the time of the marriage there was a lack of capacity, i.e. that one spouse was unable to enter the marriage:
- where one spouse was already married
- where both spouses are too closely related to each other
- for a marriage that took place before 16th November 2015, where both spouses were of the same sex.
- The formalities of getting married were not followed, for example, not giving proper notice to the Registrar of Marriages
- There was a lack of consent from one spouse at the time of marriage, this could be down to fraud, intoxication at the time of marriage of lack of mental capacity at the time of the marriage.
- At the time of the marriage, one spouse was impotent and unable to consummate the marriage. Infertility is not enough of a reason to get an annulment, one spouse must be physically unable to have sexual intercourse.
- At the time of the marriage, either spouse was incapable of entering and sustaining a proper marriage, either by mental illness, personality disorder or sexual orientation of one of the spouses.
If nullity is not an option then a couple should separate – live apart for 4 years before they can apply for a divorce.
The main factors needed to get a divorce in Ireland are that the couple must live in Ireland, have married each other and have been separated for 4 years prior to filing for divorce.
1. Contact a Divorce Solicitor and examine all options available to you
Your best port of call when it comes to getting a divorce is to speak with a divorce solicitor to help you make sense of all your options.
Once you have spoken with a solicitor, try once again to resolve any issues that have led to the decision to divorce. If reconciliation is not an option then take the time to explore the different options available to you and while doing this you can rely on your solicitor to help you move in the right direction
2. Apply for a divorce
An application for divorce is made to the Circuit court and there are 4 documents that you need to complete and submit:
- Family Law Civil Bill – this is a form that outlines you and your spouse’s occupation and where you live, when you were married, how long you have lived apart and the names and ages of your children (if any).
- Sworn statement of means – this document outlines your assets, income, debts, liabilities and outgoings.
- Sworn statement of the welfare of your children – this document outlines details of the children of the marriage, where they live and who they live with, education, health, childcare arrangements, maintenance and access arrangements.
- A document that clarifies that you have been informed of all alternatives to divorce. This will be sworn by a solicitor and shows that you are aware of all other options, like mediation and separation.
Once you have submitted these forms you must wait to be given a date for a court hearing.
3. Arrange a solution while waiting for divorce to come through
It is important not to dwell on negatives if both spouses have decided that divorce is the best solution for both of them then moving on is an important part of the process and in order to do so organising their finances etc. and learning to live apart is an important step.
4. Resolve any issues before going to court
Before going to court, to save yourself time and money it is advisable for both spouses to try and come to an agreement as to what to do with assets such as property, vehicles, businesses and finances. Maintenance payments, pensions and inheritance are important factors to consider when separating. Having these aspects in order before a court hearing will mean that things will move more swiftly for you. If you cannot agree then a court hearing will decide who gets what and how assets will be split and also the welfare of any children involved.
5. Go to court
Going to court is the final step of the process, if everything has been resolved before hand it should be a relatively quick process for you.
Getting a divorce can be a stressful time for any couple, speaking with a family law solicitor can make the process as stress-free as possible. For more information feel free to call Piarais Neary on 01 649 9900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to tell him about your case.