As the Deputy will be aware, the Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016 was approved by the people in a referendum on 24 May 2019. The Bill provides for the amendment of Article 41.3.2 of the Constitution to remove the minimum living apart period for spouses seeking a divorce and for the amendment of Article 41.3.3 which deals with the recognition of foreign divorces.
After the Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016 is signed into law by the President, the Government will bring forward a Bill to amend section 5(1)(a) of the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 to reduce the minimum living apart period specified in that Act to 2 years during the previous 3 years (from 4 years during the previous 5 years). I will seek Government approval shortly for the drafting of the Bill.
The reduction of the minimum living apart period to two years will enable couples whose marriages have broken down with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation to regularise their affairs sooner. A shorter living apart period will also have the potential to reduce the legal costs involved, as couples would be less likely to need to apply for judicial separation or make a formal separation agreement while waiting to become eligible to apply for divorce.