The history of divorce in Ireland

Divorce existed in Ireland before the 1937 Constitution. After 1937 divorce no longer existed in Ireland until the constitutional amendment in the mid nineties and the subsequent Family Law (Divorce) Act of 1996. Ironically in ancient times in Ireland back in the days of the Brehon Laws an advanced set of divorce rules were in existence. The first Divorces were brought before the courts in Ireland in 1997. The personal efforts of several key lawyers and civil servants including Alan Shatter T.D. a member of the Irish parliament are to thank for the modern family law legislation in the Irish jurisdiction.

Section 5(1) of the 1996 Act sets out when and pursuant to what conditions the courts can grant a divorce in Ireland;-

“5.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, where, on application to it in that behalf by either of the spouses concerned, the court is satisfied that—

( a ) at the date of the institution of the proceedings, the spouses have lived apart from one another for a period of, or periods amounting to, at least four years during the previous five years,

( b ) there is no reasonable prospect of a reconciliation between the spouses, and

( c ) such provision as the court considers proper having regard to the circumstances exists or will be made for the spouses and any dependent members of the family,

the court may, in exercise of the jurisdiction conferred by Article 41.3.2° of the Constitution, grant a decree of divorce in respect of the marriage concerned.

(2) Upon the grant of a decree of divorce, the court may, where appropriate, give such directions under section 11 of the Act of 1964 as it considers proper regarding the welfare (within the meaning of that Act), custody of, or right of access to, any dependent member of the family concerned who is an infant (within the meaning of that Act) as if an application had been made to it in that behalf under that section.

Accordingly, you can only divorce in Ireland if you are living separate and apart for periods totaling four out of the last five years. The Act referred to at section 5(2) above is the Guardianship of Infants Act.

That allows for the fact that many couples get back together for a while before separating on a permanent basis.

In Ireland the Court with ordinary jurisdiction to deal with Divorce applications is the Circuit Court. The High Court also has jurisdiction to hear Divorce applications, however, this is generally for cases of high value where the assets are worth in excess of several million Euro.

The High Court also deals with cases on appeal from the Circuit Court. Legal fees for the High Court tend to be alot higher than in the Circuit Court.

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