Looking North, Looking South - Divorce in Ireland

Ciaran White, Claire Archbold

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Matrimonial breakdown has traditionally been under-researched in Ireland,2 North and South,despite the international trend over the past quarter of a century of using socio-legal methods tounderstand and inform the development of family law. 3 Fahey and Lyons’ groundbreaking study 4 of legal responses to. matrimonial breakdown in 1995 provided a vital snapshot of the matrimonial law system just before the point at which divorce was introduced. Their study of 510 files in 81 solicitors’ offices, and 130 family law cases in the Dublin Metropolitan District Court found a series of “dualisms” operating within the matrimonial law system. Dichotomies existed between cases in which the primary need was for protection from violence and those in which it was resolution of the ancillary (primarily financial) issues surrounding separation; between cases brought in the District Court and those brought in the Circuit Court; and between those clientswho were legally represented and those who were not. One might have thought that thesubsequent enactment of the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 would have considerably alteredthis picture. Yet in 1997, the first year of operation of that Act, there were only 1,360 applicationsreceived for divorce in the Republic of Ireland and only 356 decrees were granted. 5Fears of a tidal wave of divorce have proved unfounded, and as the system hits its stride it may be useful toconsider whether a distinctive pattern of divorce and other legal responses to matrimonialbreakdown will emerge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-22
JournalIrish Journal of Family Law
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1998


  • divorce in northern ireland
  • republic of ireland divorce
  • research on divorce
  • reality of divorce


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