Kevin O'Higgins Solicitors

Coalition vows to review four-year wait for divorce

Tuesday, 1 March, 2016
Wayne O'Connor

The Coalition has vowed to review the four-year wait for divorce if the parties are re-elected in 2016. 

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has promised to review the legislation that means separated couples have to wait four years before they can apply for divorce.

Tánaiste Joan Burton backed the proposed review but said any changes to divorce legislation would need to be put to a referendum.

It would be the first review of divorce legislation in Ireland since it was introduced 20 years ago. At present, couples must live apart from each other for at least four years before they can seek a divorce.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said it was time to assess whether the four-year waiting time was necessary.

"I have no difficulty with that review taking place, but my understanding is that to change the period we would need a referendum," said Ms Burton.

"That might be something that might be examined again by a convention such as the constitutional convention."

She added: "Any change in relation to the constitutional agreement at the time of the divorce referendum will require a referendum."

At present, couples can apply for a judicial separation one year after a marriage breaks down.

They must then live apart for at least another three years before they can apply for a divorce.


Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter said Fine Gael should make sure a review of the divorce legislation was held if the party was re-elected in 2016.

More than 3,800 couples were divorced in Ireland last year.

It is more than 20 years since the country voted by 51pc to 49pc in favour of overturning a constitutional ban on divorce.

However, Ireland has the lowest divorce rate in the EU at a rate of 0.6 per 1,000 people. In the UK this stands at 2 per 1,000.

According to the CSO, the number of people divorced as a percentage of those married stands at 13pc. The UK figure is 47pc.

More than 100,000 divorces have been granted since 1996.

Irish Independent