Divorce referendum to take place in May

Divorce referendum to take place in May

The Government is to hold a referendum on easing the country's restrictions on divorce.

A poll is expected to propose shortening the period those seeking a permanent separation need to live apart. The Cabinet approved the step on Tuesday during a meeting in Dublin.

At present, the constitution only permits divorce when spouses have lived apart for four of the previous five years.

Restrictions are enshrined in the constitution and were inserted in place of a blanket ban which was removed in a 1995 referendum.

One benefit of a reduction in the period an estranged couple lives apart would be an end to duplication of legal costs and stress.

People currently apply for an out-of-court legal or judicial separation when the marriage breaks down and then have to return to the courts again for a divorce once they have proved they have lived apart for four of the previous five years.

"I am pleased to have received the support of my Government colleagues to bring forward this important referendum and to allow the people of Ireland to have their say on an issue that unfortunately affects families across the country," said Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan

"Ireland has one of the lowest divorce rates in Europe and that is to be welcomed. Sadly, however, some marriages do break down irreconcilably, causing immense sadness and stress for all concerned.

"The Government wishes to ensure that the process for obtaining a divorce is fair, dignified and humane and allows both parties to move forward with their lives within a reasonable timeframe.

"I would like to acknowledge the work of my colleague, Minister Josepha Madigan, on her Private Members’ Bill, which started the legislative discussion around this issue.

"Both Minister Madigan and I dealt with marital breakdowns over the course of our legal careers and we are both very conscious of the emotional and financial cost of the current constitutionally mandated separation periods and the need for change."

Minister Flanagan added that the constitutional protections around the granting of a divorce would remain in force.

"If the referendum is passed, the current provisions containing the requirements that there be no prospect of reconciliation and that proper provision exists or will be made for spouses and children will continue in the Constitution.

"It will also remain the case that only a Court can grant a divorce."


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