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Financial stress is primary cause of divorce in rural Ireland


Couple fighting

Couple fighting

Couple fighting

Financial strain is the leading cause behind marriage breakdowns in rural Ireland with more women fighting to hold on to the family home, says a top family law expert.

And a psychotherapist at the Family Therapy Association has said that social media is "putting the nail" in some troubled couple's decision to end their relationship.

Over the last year, Helen Collins a west-Cork-based solicitor and author, has noticed a number of emerging trends in divorce and separation cases as couples who "couldn't afford to split" during the recession officially terminate their unions.

According to the grand-niece of Michael Collins, nowadays "almost every divorce case" is followed by negative equity bank proceedings.

"During the height of the crisis there was a big increase in district court issues and barring orders but a decrease in the long-term decision of separation and divorce. Now I think people who have struggled by want to formalise their situation and bring some sort of closure to their affairs," said Ms Collins adding that many couples didn't officially separate earlier because they felt unable to sell and there was no market.

"It's a complete hangover from the recession and the relationship just hasn't survived," said Ms Collins, adding that financial burdens have mostly impacted on couples in their early 40s and 50s in her catchment area.

Despite the stress of separating, and "lack of real or meaningful engagement" from banks, Ms Collins says more women are refusing to give up the family home when faced with repossession.

"Women are working hard to make enough money to hold on to the house. That seems to be a very strong feature of the last 12 months," she said.

Although Ms Collins, who has worked in family law for 35 years, stressed that her comments "are not stereotypical" she said husbands generally end up living somewhere else or with "other relationship interests".

Meanwhile, Trish Murphy, psychotherapist at the Family Therapy Association, says technology has "almost definitely" had a negative impact on fragile couples over the past two years.

"If couples are attempting a trial separation, as they often do in recovery situations, and you see your partner on social media having a great time in bars or with someone else it can exacerbate an already delicate situation," she said, adding "it can almost feel like an affair".

Although both family experts acknowledged the advantages of social media, they are urging couples to be more aware of the dangers of online intimacy, the lack of confidentiality and the possibility that their digital footprint could come back to haunt them during divorce or separation proceedings.

The most recent figures from the Irish Court Service shows there has been a 10pc increase in divorce over the past two years.

In 2014, there were 3,831 divorces before the courts - up from 3,609 in 2013. There were 3,482 divorces in 2012.

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More than 70pc of applications for judicial separations were made by women.

However, 56pc of high court petitions for divorce were initiated by husbands.

Earlier this year, former Justice Minister Alan Shatter called for a new divorce referendum.

Last February, he described the current law, where couples are currently required to live apart for a minimum of four years before a marriage can be legally dissolved, as "documents of their time" that need to be updated as "society evolves".

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