Spouses with foreign divorces could lose out, warns expert

ANYONE who has obtained a foreign divorce should check if it is valid here otherwise they could lose out if the second marriage fails or their spouse dies, a family law expert warned yesterday.

Many people believe the introduction of divorce here rubber stamped foreign divorces, according to Ann FitzGerald.

But many foreign divorces, especially "quickie" divorces are not recognised here. A foreign divorce must comply with strict rules on domicile the person's permanent intention to reside outside Ireland at the time the divorce was granted.

Ms FitzGerald, who is a member of the Law Society's Family Law and Civil Legal Aid Committee said this problem was highlighted in a number of cases that came before the courts recently.

One person ended up with nothing because their spouse successfully challenged the validity of their marriage on the grounds that their partner had a foreign divorce not recognised in Irish law, Ms FitzGerald said.

"The weakest most vulnerable person is generally the second spouse if there is a question mark over the validity of a foreign divorce," she added.

This lack of clarity may also serve the interests of a wealthy spouse seeking to ring-fence his/her assets from a claim if the marriage fails. A second spouse who has secured a foreign divorce may also have no claims over a spouse's pension or property if they die.

"The best advice for any couple where one or both spouses has secured a foreign divorce is to have it checked out by a solicitor," Ms FitzGerald said.

Divorce was forbidden here up to 1997 and Irish people could only get divorces abroad which were recognised in limited circumstances here.

Those who are unsure about the status of foreign divorces can make an application to the Circuit Court for a declaration on whether or not the foreign divorce is valid here. If that is not successful, a fresh Irish divorce from the first spouse can be sought.

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