I published the General Scheme of the Family Law Bill 2019 on 11 July 2019, following its approval by Government. The main purpose of the Family Law Bill will be to amend the law in relation to divorce following the enactment of the Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Act 2019, which was approved by the people in a referendum on 24 May.
The Bill will reduce the minimum living apart period specified in section 5 of the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 to two years during the previous three years.
The Bill will enable spouses whose judicial separation application is pending before a court to be granted a divorce if they have been living apart for at least two years during the previous three years on 11 June 2019 (the date of enactment of the Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Act 2019).
The Bill will clarify the meaning of the “living apart” requirement for divorce applications by giving certainty to the interpretation that has been given by the Irish courts to the phrase “lived apart from one another” as including spouses who are living in the same dwelling but are otherwise living separate lives.
The Bill will reduce to one year the living apart period of three years that applies to judicial separation applications on the basis of living apart where the respondent does not consent to the decree of judicial separation being granted.
Finally, the Bill will ensure, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, that the recognition in Ireland of divorces granted in the United Kingdom after EU legislation in this area came into operation on 1 March 2001 will continue to be on the basis of habitual residence, rather than the domicile requirement which applies to divorces granted in non-EU states. This provision will be brought into operation only if and when the UK withdraws from the EU without an agreement.
The General Scheme of the Bill has been submitted to the Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality for pre-legislative scrutiny and to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting.
The Deputy will appreciate that it is not possible for me to predict the outcome of the legislative process with regard to this or any other Bill. However, my aim is that the Bill will be enacted as soon as possible this year.