It marks the biggest change in this area of law since divorce first became legal in the 90s


On Sunday, 1 December, the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, commenced parts 1 and 2 of the Family Law Act 2019. It marks the biggest change in this area of law since divorce first became legal in the 90s. The Act give effect to May’s divorce referendum when the electorate voted overwhelmingly, by 82%, to loosen Ireland’s strict divorce laws. 

Waiting times reduced 

Under the new rules, spouses need to live separate and apart for two out of the last three years in order to be eligible to apply for divorce. Under the previous regime, couples had to live separate and apart for four out of the previous five years to be eligible. 

Waiting times for judicial separations have also been reduced. Now spouses must live apart for one year instead of three, where the other spouse doesn’t consent to the separation.  

It is hoped that the reduced waiting times will allow separating spouses to move on with their lives more quickly rather than ending up embroiled in protracted legal proceedings when a marriage breaks down. 

Other important changes

The new law also, importantly, defines what is meant by living separate and apart. This is important in the context of the ongoing housing crisis. It is becoming more and more common that, when couples spilt, and they go about living their separate lives, neither can afford to move from the family home. There is no requirement to live in separate houses for two years just that the two parties live separate lives.  

Not commenced

The Minister has not yet signed into law part 3 of the 2019 Act. This part was drawn up to allow for the recognition of divorces, legal separations and annulments granted in the UK, in the event that the UK withdraws from the European Union without an agreement that applies to this area of law. The Minister has stated that this part will only be brought in if and when the UK withdraws from the EU without an agreement.