Divorce Referendum: ‘Constitution not place to decide divorce rules,’ says Minister

The Constitution is not the appropriate place to determine the rules of divorce, Arts Minister Josepha Madigan will claim today.

Divorce Referendum: ‘Constitution not place to decide divorce rules,’ says Minister

The Constitution is not the appropriate place to determine the rules of divorce, Arts Minister Josepha Madigan will claim today.

Addressing the Law Society of Ireland, Ms Madigan will say the current requirement for couples to be separated for four years has caused enormous pain to couples who are trapped in unhappy marriages.

“This surely cannot be acceptable in modern Ireland. It prevents them from moving on with their lives.

It traps them in failed relationships. Family relationships become further strained, often beyond repair. 

"Rather than supporting families, the current separation period can damage them,” she will say.

According to the Central Statistics Office, the number of divorced people in the State has increased from 35,100 in 2002 to 103,895 in 2016.

The Law Society of Ireland is to back the Government’s referendum proposal to remove the minimum living-apart period for spouses seeking a divorce from the Constitution.

It will make 11 recommendations for reform in a new report, Divorce in Ireland: The Case for Reform, written by Dr Geoffrey Shannon.

The society will recommend that:

  • a specialised family court structure should be established and a definition or definitions of “living apart” should be developed;
  • a set of principles for the determination of ancillary reliefs should be developed, to include all maintenance orders, lump sum payments, settlements, property adjustment orders, and pension adjustment orders;
  • provision for “clean break” divorces should be put in place, in appropriate cases.

It will also recommend the law be reviewed to allow for the development of pre-nuptial agreements that are valid and enforceable and that a review of the issue of maintenance should be prioritised.

The Succession Act of 1965 should be reviewed with particular regard to the introduction of divorce and the consideration of “clean break” scenarios.

The society will say alternative means of dispute resolution should be actively promoted and facilitated, wherever possible, and court reporting and research rules should be amended so that bona fide researchers research family law cases.

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