The Family Law Act has recently concluded all stages of the Oireachtas and has been signed into law by the President. At the time of writing, the Act awaits being commenced by the Minister for Justice before it can take effect. The Act which primarily seeks to reduce the living apart for divorce requirement. The law as it currently stands (the Family Law Divorce Act 1996) requires a married couple to live apart for four years during the previous five years.

Thankfully, the 2019 Act reduces the living apart requirement to two years from the previous three years. This will provide a huge relief to many couples who are going through the Family Law Courts as the 2019 Act provides that proceedings currently before the Courts can be converted from a judicial separation application to a divorce application.

The 2019 Act also addresses the recognition of divorces, legal separations and marriage annulments granted in other foreign jurisdictions and in particular in the UK or Gibraltar. This is of particular interest in the current climate of Brexit and it addresses the circumstances where if there is no provision made for the recognition of marriage annulments, divorces, or legal separations in the UK or Gibraltar on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.

The 2019 Act also provides explicit provisions that in determining whether spouses or civil partners who live in the same dwelling have been living apart for the purposes of divorce, judicial separation and dissolution proceedings wherein a Court will consider that the spouses or civil partners have lived apart if they do not live together as couple in an intimate and committed relationship. This is a welcome change as, as practitioners, we are well aware that couples while they may be living under the same roof, are not together in a committed and intimate relationship and that the marriage has ended even though the couple are still living together.

The amendment to the living apart period is a huge relief for couples and practitioners alike as it will make the barrier to divorce much less burdensome and will reduce the stress of the whole process. If you have any queries please contact julie@mwkeller.ie or contact us here

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