Divorce Referendum; vote ‘yes’ for a ‘more humane approach’

Wednesday, 22nd May, 2019 11:28am

Divorce Referendum; vote ‘yes’ for a ‘more humane approach’

Fine Gael launched their campaign for a ‘yes’ vote, with speakers espousing a central message to help reduce the emotional and financial distress for couples having to prove to a court they’re separated for four out of the previous five years before applying for divorce.

 Director of Elections for the Referendum, Minister Josepha Madigan, and Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, addressed the launch, along with Lisa Hughes, a person who has experienced judicial separation and divorce. The long separation period requirement, the Government says, means couples often have to apply for a judicial separation or enter a separation agreement in order to regularise their affairs before divorcing – doubling their legal costs. Fine Gael secured widespread cross-party support for the proposals.

Ms Hughes from Dublin, who addressed the launch, said: “No-one expects their relationship to break down and their marriage to come to an end but it does happen. In my case, the requirement to secure a judicial separation in advance of the formal divorce added significantly to the costs involved.

“Four years is too long to live in legal and day-to-day limbo if your marriage has broken down irretrievably. For these reasons I’m urging people to vote Yes on Friday 24th.”

Minister Madigan, who as a backbencher introduced a private members’ bill to reduce the separation period, said with the current four-year wait period and long-drawn out court processes serve only to increase acrimony in the long run. “Family relationships become further strained, often beyond repair. This surely cannot be acceptable in modern Ireland. The law today traps couples in irretrievable failed relationships. Rather than supporting families, the current lengthy separation period requirement can damage them.”

As a family law solicitor, she is conscious that is takes time to make the arrangements necessary for a divorce.

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, who is responsible for the legislation, states that Ireland has a very low divorce rate by international standards. “However, sadly in every part of Ireland, people’s marriages do break down irreparably and we want to help couples who find themselves in this sad situation.

“Our proposal involves retaining important constitutional protections: only a court may grant a divorce and the judge must be satisfied there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation and proper provision has been made for children and dependants.”

Minister Flanagan concluded by acknowledging the strong support for the referendum proposal on all sides in the Dáil and Seanad.“I want to also acknowledge the strong support for the referendum proposal from many NGOs, the Law Society and, in particular, the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Dr. Geoffrey Shannon.”

Minister Madigan added: “At the end of the day while support is very welcome, it’s votes that count. The referendum will also ask people to agree to amend the constitutional provision governing the recognition of foreign divorces. The current provision dates from 1937 – at a time when divorce was illegal under the Constitution. The proposal seeks to streamline the proposal so that the Oireachtas can regulate this area of law and address inconsistencies in the law. The Law Reform Commission will conduct an expert analysis of these issues in its next programme of law reform and legislation will follow, if the referendum is passed.”

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