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Irish couples seeking divorce being forced down punishing route

Couples seeking to divorce in Ireland are being forced down a punishing route in a complex process that can take anything from twelve to over 18 months, a legal aid conference has heard.

And the process takes so long and costs so much that many men and women remain in unhappy and unhealthy relationships.

In the UK  all divorce petitions are straightforward box ticking application forms which can take about seven minutes to complete.

The amount of time and complexity required to petition for divorce in Ireland could be negated so easily with an overhaul of the court forms and procedures.

Ireland is one of the most forward thinking and tech-savvy nations in Europe so why not pilot online applications. Simple to complete and can be filed instantaneously.

Solicitors say in many courtrooms around the country it is a logistical nightmare for practitioners where there are only a small number of consultation rooms and even chairs and sometimes everyone has to stand in a hallway before appearing in court.

Couples  may also have to take up to two days off work or arrange childcare during court appearances whereas in the UK most divorces where the parties agree are granted without any appearance by the couple in court.

The reality is that divorce in Ireland is not fault based however we are still filing pages and pages of evidence as to unreasonable behaviour or adultery in civil bills and defences, all of which only serve to further polarize parties when the opposite should be the case.

In one court district,  of 29 cases listed for hearing at Circuit Court level, 14 dated back to 2015, 11 cases to 2016 with three going back to 2014 and one as far back as 2013.

Regarding the payment of maintenance in family law cases,  the law is very clear that maintenance is to be paid for non-resident children and the main contention is how much. Other jurisdictions have maintenance calculators and simple formulas for different family circumstances.

We have PIAB, the Workplace Relations Commission and the Residential Tenancies Board. Maintenance could be dealt with in a similar way and then only enforcement actions would need to be brought before the court.

Source: Irish Examiner.

Dillon Geraghty & Co. are family law solicitors based in Co. Meath.

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