Divorce change would 'ease money pressures on couples'
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has said he believes a majority of voters will back a referendum that will make it easier to get divorced.
The referendum is being held on May 24 - the same day as local and European elections. Its aim is to reduce the minimum time of separation before divorce can be granted from four years to two, and also simplify procedures to recognise divorces obtained outside Ireland.
Culture Minister Josepha Madigan, who is a family law solicitor, spearheaded the move for change.
She said the Government supported marriage but needed to help people who had already decided to separate by reducing the financial and emotional strains.
Ms Madigan said the four-year period, stipulated in the Constitutional referendum which narrowly passed in November 1995, put extra legal costs and emotional strains on separating couples. She said that in many cases couples had to get a judicial separation and other court orders to help organise their affairs.
Mr Flanagan said the referendum had the support of all the Dáil parties and legislation for the change would follow quickly after the referendum vote. He warned against complacency among those advocating change, saying all referendums posed challenges.
"There is support out there for these changes, and it's not just urban support, not just Dublin support. It's all over the country," Mr Flanagan said.
"I've been a rural TD for more than half of my adult life and I know that this is not an urban issue. It's also not a rural issue. It's everybody's issue. I see on a daily basis in my constituency the emotional and financial stress the long wait puts on families and people," he added.
The two ministers were accompanied by Lisa Hughes, who told of her experience in having to get both a judicial separation and a divorce.
The referendum proposal would remove the constitutional requirement for a couple to live apart for four out of the previous five years before divorcing. The Government would then legislate for a time-limit of two years, following on the example of the abortion referendum.
Ms Madigan said the Government had examined a one-year time limit but felt it was too short.
She said many EU countries had a two-year limit, though some had one-year and others had no time stipulation at all.