Unlike separation which can be agreed between spouses, a divorce can only be granted by a Court and where the Court is satisfied that proper financial arrangements have been made for both spouses of the marriage and their children (what is known as “proper provision”).

At present a person can only seek a divorce where they have been living separate and apart from their spouse for two out of the previous three years.  That can include circumstances where estranged spouses are living in the same house but where they are living entirely separate lives.

Why seek a divorce?

For many people they may have resolved all issues arising from marital breakdown by way of a Separation Agreement or in the context of a Judicial Separation.

However, there are a number of significant reasons for obtaining a divorce, including:

  • Most fundamentally, the right to re-marry
  • Divorce can provide a more definite sense of finality to, and the ability to move on from, a marriage breakdown
  • Upon divorce, persons cease to be the “spouse” of each other which is relevant to issues such as inheritance rights, tax issues etc.
  • A person who remarries cannot continue to claim spousal/personal maintenance from a former spouse
  • Obtaining a divorce may reduce the likelihood that an estranged spouse might make further financial claims into the future


How to get a divorce in Ireland?

In Ireland a divorce can only be granted by either the Circuit Court or the High Court. While spouses can agree the terms of a divorce settlement, any such agreement must be approved by a Court (what is known as ‘ruling’ a settlement)

When did divorce become legal in Ireland?

Divorce was legalised in Ireland by the 15th amendment to the Constitution in 1995 which removed the then bar to divorce in the Constitution. The Constitution was amended to set out the conditions which must be met before a Court can grant a divorce, namely:

• spouses have been living separate and apart for a period of four years of out the previous five (reduced two out of the previous three years by the 35th amendment in 2016).
• proper provision exists or will be made for both spouses and any dependent members of the family
• there is no prospect of reconciliation between the spouses

How long must I wait before I can apply for a Divorce?

When the Constitution was first changed in 1995 to allow for divorce, the required period was four years out of the previous five. That was changed by the 35th amendment to the Constitution passed in 2019 to two years out of the previous three. It is important also to remember that the two-ear period must have elapsed before starting an application for divorce. It is not possible to commence an application in the expectation that the two-year period will have elapsed by the time the application is dealt with by a Court

How long does a divorce take?

That very much depend on whether the spouses are agreed on both the granting of a divorce and the terms of a divorce settlement. If there is agreement on both of those issues, then it is possible to process a ‘consent divorce’ application within a matter of 2-3 months, or potentially sooner if there are valid reasons for an urgent application. Where there is no agreement between spouses, the timeframe for obtaining a divorce will be significantly longer and will be dependent upon the circumstances of each case

How much does a divorce cost in Ireland?

A divorce can be a costly process but there are several ways in which the costs can be minimised. The key to reducing costs are where both sides:

– at all times seek to reduce conflict when separating, in particular in matters relating to children
– get early expert advice, both legal and financial, and advice from child experts in how best to minimise the impact of separation upon children
– provide full and timely information on all financial matters
– try to reach an amicable settlement of all issues, whether through mediation or other dispute resolution method appropriate to your circumstances

How are assets divided in divorce in Ireland?

The most important fact to remember is that all assets, income and pensions, as well as debts and liabilities, are taken into account by a Court when deciding what financial provision should be made for both spouses and dependent children. That includes all assets and pension acquired before marriage, inherited/gifted or otherwise.

In deciding what is ‘proper provision’ for both spouses and the dependent members of the family, the Court will assess all of the circumstances of the case including:

– health of the spouses
– income and earning capacity of the spouses, their property and financial resources, either now or likely to be enjoyed in the foreseeable future
– impact/impairment on the earning capacity of a spouse arising from the marital responsibilities assumed during the marriage
– spouses’ financial needs, obligations and responsibilities now or in the foreseeable future
– standard of living enjoyed by the parties during marriage
– age of the spouses and the length of time they lived together
– contributions which each spouse has, or is likely in the future to make, to the welfare of the family. The Supreme Court in Ireland has said that contributions by a spouse in the home and/or caring for the family should be given equal weight to financial contributions
– conduct of the spouses in the marriage where the conduct is such that it would be unjust to disregard it.
– accommodation needs of the spouses
– value of any benefit (e.g. pension benefit) that a spouse may lose by virtue of a separation or divorce

Can a divorce settlement be reopened?

It is possible to re-open either a separation or divorce settlement. Typically, that would arise where:

– there was material financial non-disclosure at the time of the original financial settlement.
– one spouse remarries, thereby losing a right to spousal maintenance from their first spouse
– either party has a significant change in their circumstances. That could be a positive or negative change financially or a negative change personally (e.g. ill heath)

The circumstances where a settlement might be re-opened successfully are complex and require expert and specialist family law advices.

Does Separation lead to divorce?

Many people will separate but may never seek a divorce. It is possible to deal with all issues arising from the breakdown of a relationship by way of a Separation Agreement without ever having to go to Court. However, a divorce can only be granted by a Court