Law Society of Ireland supports referendum proposal

Report recommends constitutional and other legal reforms.

  • The Law Society supports the Government’s proposal to reduce the minimum living apart period for spouses seeking a divorce to a minimum period of two years in the upcoming referendum.
  • A major new report by the Law Society has today been published.
  • Divorce in Ireland: The Case for Reform is a unique piece of empirical research on divorce in Ireland, 20 years on.
  • The report launch takes place at 11am at the Law Society of Ireland, Blackhall Place, Dublin 7, with keynote address by Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD.

The Law Society of Ireland has announced its support for the proposal to remove, by referendum on 24 May, the minimum living apart period for spouses seeking a divorce from the Constitution, with a provision to allow the Oireachtas to amend section 5(1)(a) of the Divorce Act to reduce the minimum period to two years. The Law Society made the announcement as it launched a major report on divorce.

The Law Society makes 11 recommendations for reform in Divorce in Ireland: The Case for Reform, a unique piece of empirical research on divorce in Ireland. It also contains statistics and case reports from the busiest family law courts across the country. The report’s principal author, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, is a member of the Law Society’s Family and Child Law Committee.

Speaking at the Report’s launch at the Law Society’s headquarters in Blackhall Place, Dublin today (Thursday 2 May 2019), Dr Shannon highlighted that, “Divorce has now been in operation in Ireland for over two decades. During that time Ireland has witnessed radical change that has resulted in a more secular, more modern and less traditional society.”

“The Council of the Law Society, having considered the Report, decided to call for a yes vote in the referendum due to take place later this month. While each case is unique, the current requirement to live apart for a period of four years prior to the institution of divorce proceedings may now be considered too long. It may result in a duplication of legal expenses and protracted proceedings, where parties are involved in both judicial separation and divorce proceedings over time.”

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. Dr Shannon said, “Undoubtedly, the rise in the number of divorced persons also reflects an increasing acceptance of divorce within Irish society as a remedy to an irretrievably broken-down marriage.”

“The questions facing Ireland now relate to what type of legal framework and practice should underpin its law in this arena. What type of divorce law and practice do we want? The Law Society has conducted this research in order to answer these difficult questions by looking at the evidence.”

Recommendations for divorce reform

As well as supporting the proposal to amend Article 41.3.2 of the Constitution, noting that such a change would require a constitutional referendum, in Divorce in Ireland: The Case for Reform, the Law Society also recommends that:

  • A specialised family court structure should be established,
  • 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,
  • The law should be reviewed to allow for the development of pre-nuptial agreements that are valid and enforceable,
  • 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,
  • A coherent legislative system for the recognition of foreign divorces should be drafted,
  • Alternative means of dispute resolution should be actively promoted and facilitated, wherever possible, and
  • Court reporting and research rules should be amended so that any bona fide researcher with a connection to the legal profession can carry out research on family law cases.

For full details, download Divorce in Ireland: The Case for Reform

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