The Divorce Referendum passed – so what happens now?
Family law in Ireland changed dramatically on the 24th May 2019 when a referendum to reduce the waiting period for a divorce from 4 years to 2 years was passed. An overwhelming 82% of the electorate voted to amend Article 41.3.2 of the Constitution to remove the minimum living apart period for spouses seeking a divorce.
So, when will this take effect? Well, the President of Ireland signed legislation on the 11th June to give effect to the referendum. However, that is just one step in the legislative process to change the law.
On the 9th July the Government took the first step to introduce legislation to amend the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 to reduce the minimum living apart period specified in that Act to 2 years during the previous 3 years (from 4 years during the previous 5 years). It is hoped it will be law in the coming months.
The reduction of the minimum living apart period to two years will enable couples whose marriages have broken down with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation to regularise their affairs sooner. A shorter living apart period will also have the potential to reduce the legal costs involved, as couples would be less likely to need to apply for judicial separation or make a formal separation agreement while waiting to become eligible to apply for divorce.
Watch this space!