22 December 2017

Divorce referendum expected to be held in November 2018

The Irish public may be casting their vote in another divorce referendum next year, following the Government’s acceptance of Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan’s Bill last April, which proposed a reduction in the waiting time for a divorce from four years to two.

The change will require a constitutional referendum.

Under current law, couples must live apart for four years out of the preceding five before they can initiate divorce proceedings. Ms. Madigan’s Private Member’s Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Divorce) Bill 2016 will reduce the wait time to two years out of the preceding three, shortening the time which separated couples must wait before they can begin proceedings.

Ms Madigan told the Dáil that the current constitutional requirement for separating couples to live apart for four years out of the preceding five before initiating divorce proceedings was cumbersome and restrictive, and added that she believed her Bill would make a “significant positive difference to the lives of separating couples in Ireland.”

Ms. Madigan emphasised that the Bill would not contribute to marital breakdown in Ireland, and would “simply allow people whose marriage has broken down to access the legislative certainty and finality of a divorce within a reasonable time.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told reporters during the summer that he has specific timelines in mind for when citizens can expect to go to the polls to vote in several upcoming referendums, saying “The windows that we have in mind are around June/July next year, another set in November at the same time as the presidential election and then another set in May or June 2019 at the same time as the local and European elections.”

Ms. Madigan appeared to indicate that the referendum for her Bill would take place in November, saying that “It is going to go to a referendum, the Taoiseach has said to me, he hopes in November 2018. I would be really delighted with that. Obviously, I would like it before that but there are a lot of other referendums to get through, so I am delighted.”

Although the Taoiseach subsequently refused to confirm a specific date for the referendum, it is almost certain that Irish voters will take to the polls to vote on this issue within the next twelve months.

Moran and Ryan have extensive experience in the areas of separation and divorce. If you have been affected by any of these issues, do not hesitate to contact our office and arrange a consultation.