herald

Thursday 17 October 2019

Spare families 'pain and trauma' by paving way for quickie divorces, says TD

Minister Josepha Madigan
Minister Josepha Madigan

Couples in Ireland could be allowed to get a "quickie divorce" for the first time, with a referendum next year expected to dramatically speed up the process for those seeking a divorce.

It comes as a Dublin TD and Cabinet minister said the "draconian" divorce laws in Ireland were inflicting more damage than necessary on broken families.

The Government is looking at two options to put to the people.

The first option is a vote which would see the waiting time in the Constitution reduced from four to two years.

The other option would involve a vote to remove the period from the Constitution altogether to introduce the two-year period by way of legislation.

Culture Minister Josepha Madigan said her preference would be to remove the time limit altogether.

This would allow the Dail to change the rules in future without another referendum.

Ms Madigan said making couples wait four years to get a divorce meant they were "effectively trapped in unhappy marriages for years".

"This surely cannot be acceptable in modern Ireland," she said.

The Government has promised a referendum on divorce to coincide with the local elections on May 24 - but the question that will be asked remains undecided.

It will be the first time since divorce was approved in 1995 that voters will be asked to amend the rules associated with it. That referendum was passed by fewer than 10,000 votes.

"The price to win over a wary electorate was the mandating of a four-year waiting period in the Constitution," Ms Madigan said.

The Dublin Rathdown TD spent almost two decades working as a solicitor in family law, specialising in separation and divorce. She also acted as a mediator to assist couples to avoid a court-imposed outcome.

"I have witnessed first-hand the pain and trauma that the time limit inflicts on families," she said.

"Our current law can be said to make divorce as difficult as possible. The consequence of this is not, as some claim, the protection of the family unit; rather, it leads to the damaging of families."

Ms Madigan added that the tendency to put restrictions on social policy in the Constitution was "problematic".

"They reflect the values of our society at a fixed point in time on an issue where public opinion is evolving," she said.

"Ireland's waiting time for divorce is one of the longest in Europe and indeed the world.

Mature

"Two years is a more reasonable time period, allowing couples time to obtain legal advice on property, pensions access, maintenance and other ancillary reliefs."

The minister said that Ireland was a "more mature and open society" than in 1995 and people were "less willing to judge the life choices of others".

"The reduction of the time limit does not undermine the institution of marriage, it simply allows us to treat those whose marriages break down with the compassion and respect they deserve," she said.

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