Divorce and Separation


A decree of divorce will be granted by the Court if the spouses have lived apart for a period or periods of two years out of the previous three and the Court is satisfied that the proper financial provision is in place or will be made by the Court for the spouses and any dependent children. The Court will also want to know the parenting arrangements for the children. Ireland has a no fault system of divorce.

Proper financial provision can be made by a variety of ancillary relief orders for maintenance, child support, who is to reside in the family home or whether it should be sold, property adjustment orders, financial compensation orders, pension adjustment orders and orders related to inheritance rights.

The court will be guided by a long list of statutory factors including the length of the marriage, the financial circumstances of both spouses and their ages, the contribution made by each to the welfare of the family, the prejudice to a career or earning capacity of duties within the home, the standard of living enjoyed by the spouses when they lived together etc.

“Living apart” is broadly defined and can include situations where spouses continue to live in the same house but in separate households.

One of the spouses must be ordinarily resident in Ireland for at least twelve months prior to the divorce application being made. The application is usually made to the Court of the Circuit where the spouses or one of them resides or works. Spouses who live in Dublin will be heard in Dublin Circuit. Those who live in Kildare on the Eastern Circuit and those who live in Galway on the Western Circuit. Cases involving significant assets are usually commenced in the High Court in Dublin.

Judicial Separation

If a marriage relationship is unhappy every effort should be made to see if the relationship can be improved through counselling and therapy. If one spouse decides that the marriage is over they can apply to the courts for a judicial separation based on several grounds, including adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, living apart for more than two years or on the basis that “no normal marital relationship has existed between the spouses for more than twelve months”.

As in divorce the Court will need to be satisfied that proper financial provision is in place for the spouses and any dependent children and will also refer to an almost identical list of statutory factors. Judicial separation cases are commenced when spouses have not yet lived apart for the requisite two year period and the protection of the Court is needed for some emergency element such as maintenance or child support or domestic violence relief.

Spouses who do not wish to seek a judicial separation can reach agreement in a deed of separation and wait for the passage of the two year period to apply for a divorce.