Explainer – Referendum on the Regulation of Divorce

With the polls for the upcoming Local and European elections taking place on Friday, May 24, the Referendum on the Regulation of Divorce has somewhat gone under the radar.

In several cases, people don’t even know there is a referendum vote taking place alongside the elections, and many who are aware don’t know the full details of what is at stake in the vote.

So what are the issues we are voting on in the Referendum on the Regulation of Divorce?

The vote is on a proposal to change aspects of the Constitution of Ireland in relation to divorce.

The proposal is in relation to two aspects of divorce, how long a couple must be living apart before applying for divorce and the recognition of foreign divorces.

The current Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 states that spouses must have lived apart for four of the last five years at the date the divorce proceedings are instituted as one of the conditions required to grant a divorce.

If a majority votes Yes, then the constitution will change. Spouses applying for divorce will no longer have to have lived apart for four of the last five years. Provisions of the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 will continue to apply until the Oireachtas changes the law.

The Constitution currently prohibits people who have obtained a foreign divorce that is not recognised under Irish law from remarrying during the lifetime of the other party to the marriage.

The Constitution does not set out the rules for recognition of a foreign divorce. Some foreign divorces are entitled to recognition within the State under existing law. At the moment, different recognition rules apply depending on where and when the foreign divorce was obtained.

If a majority votes Yes, The explicit constitutional prohibition on a person remarrying in the State who has obtained a foreign divorce not recognised under Irish law will be removed. It will still be prohibited for a person to remarry in the State unless their foreign divorce is recognised under Irish law.

There will only be two options on the ballot paper, yes or no. Voters cannot accept one change and reject another. They must vote to accept or reject both provisions.

For more information on the current provisions under the Constitution, proposed changes and how to vote, you can visit Refcom.ie.

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