The number of people who have experienced marital breakdown has risen by nearly a quarter since the 2006 Census, according to figures published in 2012 by the Central Statistics Office.
The data showed that the number of separated and divorced people increased by 22.3 per cent between 2006 and 2011 from 166,797 to 203,964. Two thirds of the increase (24,784) was among those aged 55 and over. While married people on their first marriage accounted for 48.5 per cent of the adult population in 1996, this has fallen to 45.9 per cent in 2011.
Couples who experience serious relationship difficulties have the following options open to them in terms of how they move forward in their lives:
If a married couple can agree the terms on which they will live separately, they may enter into a Deed of Separation. The essence of a separation agreement is that both parties must consent to the terms of the agreement. The terms of the agreement are reached through negotiation through their solicitors. The deed is legally binding document which sets out the spouses' future rights and duties to each other and to their children. The main issues dealt with in a separation agreement are as follows:
• An agreement to live apart
• Custody and access to children
• Maintenance and any lump sum payments
• The fate of the family home and other property
• Succession rights.
If a couple cannot agree the terms by which they will live separately, either spouse may seek a judicial separation through the courts.
An application for a judicial separation is made either in the Circuit Court or the High Court. The application may be based on one of a number of grounds which exist. Even after a judicial separation has been granted the parties are no longer required to cohabit, however they are not entitled to re-marry, unlike a divorce where the marriage is dissolved and the parties are no longer the spouses of each other.
Ireland has adopted a 'no-fault' based approach to divorce. A Decree of Divorce allows both parties to remarry. In order to successfully obtain a Decree of Divorce from an Irish court, it is necessary to satisfy the court that:
• The parties have been living apart from one another for a period of four out of the previous five years before the application is made.
• There must be no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
• Proper arrangements must have been made or will be made for the spouse and any dependent members of the family, such as children.
Financial and other ancillary reliefs may be sought by the parties including property adjustment orders and pension adjustment orders to name but two. There are many factors which the court will take into account including the current and future financial situations of the spouses, dependent children, their future needs and welfare, property and succession rights.
New figures from the Central Statistics Office show that while Irish marriage rates have fallen to the EU average, unfortunately marriage breakdown figures are on the increase.
Marguerite Fitzgerald B.Corp. law LL.B is a solicitor witb Mannix & Company, Solicitors, 12 Castle Street, Tralee, Co. Kerry. Tel:066 7125011; email:email@example.com