A decree of divorce allows both parties to a marriage to remarry or enter into a civil partnership. If a court is satisfied that the required conditions (see Rules below) are met, the court will grant the decree of divorce dissolving the marriage. When it grants the decree of divorce, the court may also make orders in relation to custody of children and access to them , the payment of maintenance and lump sums, the transfer of property, the extinguishment of succession rights, pension rights etc.
The fact that the parties must have been living separate lives for a number of years before an application for a divorce is made means that many separating couples obtain a separation agreement or a judicial separation to regulate matters between them before they seek a divorce.
In any application for a decree of divorce, the court can review any previous arrangements made by the parties such as a separation agreement, particularly if the circumstances of either party has changed.
When a decree of divorce is granted, it cannot be reversed. Either party can apply to court to have any orders made under the decree - such as maintenance - reviewed by the court.
Before a court can grant a divorce, the following conditions must be met:
- The parties must have been living apart from one another for a period amounting to four out of the previous five years before the application is made.
- There must be no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
- Proper arrangements must have been made or will be made for the spouse and any dependent members of the family such as children of either party and other relatives.
If these conditions are met, either party to a marriage may apply to court for a decree of divorce. When applying for a divorce you must submit four documents to the Circuit Court:
- An application form (known as a family law civil bill). This document describes both you and your spouse, your occupations and where you live. It also sets out when you married, for how long you have been living apart and the names and birth dates of your children.
- A sworn statement of means (Form 37A). This document sets out your assets, your income, your debts, your liabilities and your outgoings.
- A sworn statement relating to the welfare of your children (Form 37B). This document sets out the personal details of the children of the marriage. It describes where they live and with whom. It also describes their education and training, their health, childcare arrangements and maintenance and access arrangements.
- A document certifying that you have been advised of the alternatives to divorce (Form 37D). This document is sworn by a solicitor and it certifies that you have discussed the options of reconciliation, mediation and separation.
When all of the necessary documents have been filed, you will be given a date for the court hearing. The hearing will be held in private and you will need to show the court that you meet the requirements of the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996. You can read more about the factors considered by a court in a divorce case here. If the court is satisfied that you have grounds for a divorce, it will grant a decree of divorce.
Further information on applying for a divorce is available on the Courts Service website.