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New laws needed to recognise foreign divorces


The Four Courts

The Four Courts

The Four Courts

THE Supreme Court has called for legislation to provide for a uniform approach to recognition of foreign divorces after ruling that Irish law does not recognise their validity in certain circumstances.

The five-judge court's decision related to the recognition here of foreign divorces obtained before 1986 when a law was enacted abolishing the dependent domicile of a married woman.

By four to one, they ruled Irish law does not recognise the validity of a foreign divorce lawfully granted before October 1986 in a country where neither party to the relevant marriage had permanent principal home at the date the divorce proceedings were instituted but where one party was resident.

All five judges agreed the legislative position in relation to the "difficult issue" of recognition of foreign divorces should be reconsidered so there is, as far as possible, a uniform approach.

The court's decision was made in the case of an Irish woman who married here in the 1960s and had several children with her husband before she left him due to his alleged violence, which he denied.

While resident in England, she obtained a divorce there in the early 1980s and the Supreme Court said the English court appeared to have made no financial provision for the woman in that order.

She returned to Ireland some years ago and initiated divorce proceedings here in 2005 in which it was argued her English divorce was not entitled to recognition here.

The case was referred by the High Court to the Supreme Court for determination of legal points arising from the fact of the existence of conflicting previous court decisions on the recognition of foreign divorces granted prior to 1986.

The date of October 1986 reflected the fact that, on that date, the Domicile and Recognition of Foreign Divorces Act 1986 abolished the dependent domicile of a married woman and provided for the recognition of foreign divorces if those were granted in a country where either spouse was domiciled.

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