Family Law Act 2019 – amendment and clarification on the provisions for “Living Apart”

November 2019

The Family Law Act 2019 (the ‘Act’), which primarily seeks to put on a statutory footing the public’s clear desire for a shorter period of ‘living apart’ for divorce, recently concluded all stages of the Oireacthas and having been signed into law by the President, it awaits being commenced by the Minister for Justice to take effect. The Act follows the referendum on the Thirty-Eighth amendment to the Constitution, which had 82% of the voting public’s support. The three amendments and provisions can be broadly summarised as follows:

  • the reduction of the minimum period of ‘living apart’ for divorce under the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 from four years during the previous five years, to two years during the previous three years;
  • the recognition of divorces, legal separations and marriage annulments granted in the UK or Gibraltar, if no provision has been made for their recognition on the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union; and
  • explicit provisions that in determining whether spouses or civil partners, who live in the same dwelling, have been ‘living apart’ for the purposes of divorce, judicial separation and dissolution proceedings, a court will consider the spouses or civil partners to have ‘lived apart’ if they do not live together as a couple in an intimate and committed relationship.

The amendment as to the ‘living apart’ period will be welcomed by all as it will make the barrier for divorce less burdensome to overcome and therefore reduce the stress of the process; while the amendment as to what constitutes ‘living apart’ will bring greater certainty in this area. Finally, while we all anxiously await the outcome of the Brexit process, the provisions for recognition of UK divorces, legal separations and marriage annulments will allay the concerns of many in the face of a potential no-deal Brexit.

For more information, please get in touch with your usual Whitney Moore contact or Dermot Gallagher.