Minister Flanagan welcomes Yes vote in Divorce Referendum
· Minister will now bring forward a Bill to reduce minimum living apart period to two years during the previous three years
26 May 2019
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, has welcomed today’s result in the referendum on divorce. The Government’s proposal to amend Articles 41.3.2 and 41.3.3 of the Constitution was approved by 82.1% of those who voted.
Minister Flanagan said: “I would like to thank all those who supported this referendum proposal.
“I am very pleased that the proposal received such widespread support from the people of Ireland. This is a very decisive result with a consistent, high level of support right across the country.
“The result is testament to the compassion and fairness of Irish people in every part of the country. The primary purpose of the referendum was to reduce the emotional and financial distress experienced by couples whose marriages have sadly broken down irretrievably by allowing the Oireachtas to legislate.
“Over time, it has become very clear that complex questions of social policy are best dealt with through detailed legislation in the Oireachtas. Core protections for marriage will remain in our Constitution.
“The Government wants to ensure that the process for obtaining a divorce is fair, dignified and humane, and allows both parties to move forward with their lives within a reasonable timeframe. It is therefore my intention to reduce the living apart period to a minimum of two out of the preceding three years and to do so by way of ordinary legislation, which I will bring forward as soon as possible. This proposal has widespread cross-party support in the Oireachtas.
“I am pleased that Article 41.3.3 has been modernised to allow the Oireachtas to ensure a consistent and fair approach to the recognition of foreign divorces granted both inside and outside the EU.
“I would like to acknowledge again the work of my colleague, Minister Josepha Madigan, on her Private Members’ Bill, which started the legislative discussion around this issue.”
The Minister will now move to bring forward a Bill to amend section 5 of the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 to reduce the minimum living apart period to two years during the previous three years. The Heads of Bill have already been published and Minister Flanagan will now work with the Attorney General to draft the Bill.
Notes for Editors:
The Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016 provides for the following amendments of the Constitution:
(a) to delete the following paragraph from Article 41.3.2° of the Constitution:
“I at the date of the institution of the proceedings, the spouses have lived apart from one another for a period of, or periods amounting to, at least four years during the previous five years,”, and
(b) to delete the following subsection from Article 41.3 of the Constitution:
“3° No person whose marriage has been dissolved under the civil law of any other State but is a subsisting valid marriage under the law for the time being in force within the jurisdiction of the Government and Parliament established by this Constitution shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage within that jurisdiction during the lifetime of the other party to the marriage so dissolved.”,
and to substitute that subsection with the following:
“3º Provision may be made by law for the recognition under the law of the State of a dissolution of marriage granted under the civil law of another state.”
The outcome of the referendum will not lead to any changes to the other provisions in Article 41.3.2, namely that:
- only a court may grant a divorce;
- there is no reasonable prospect of a reconciliation between the spouses; and
- proper provision exists or will be made for the spouses, any children of either or both of them and any other person prescribed by law.
The Minister for Justice and Equality will bring forward a Bill to amend section 5(1)(a) of the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 to reduce the minimum living apart period to 2 years during the previous 3 years (from 4 years during the previous 5 years). This Bill will be along the lines of the draft General Scheme of the Family Law (Divorce) (Amendment) Bill which the Minister published on 26 March 2019. The Minister will seek Government approval shortly for the drafting of the new Bill and it is hoped to publish it as soon as possible, most likely in the autumn.
Minister Flanagan has indicated that he intends to legislate to introduce greater consistency in the recognition of foreign divorces and that he will be guided by the expert report of the Law Reform Commission in developing proposals for legislation. The Law Reform Commission has included in its Fifth Programme of Law Reform an examination of recognition of foreign divorces.