When a marriage has broken down without any hope of reconciliation, it can be a difficult and emotional decision to end it for good. For couples considering divorce, it is important to understand the legal grounds for divorce in Ireland.

The Family Law Act of 2019 brought about some changes to the legislation surrounding the breakdown of a marriage. In the wake of this new legislation, the number of divorce applications in the State has continued to rise, with the requirement for spouses to live apart from each other being reduced to a minimum of two out of the preceding three years before applying for a divorce.

Particularly when children and property are involved, there can be a lot of financial and living arrangements to navigate through following the breakdown of a relationship. Working out these situations can be a lengthy and complicated process which is why many couples opt for a judicial separation before applying for a divorce.

In this article, we examine the judicial separation stage, how it ties in with the process of divorce and the grounds for divorce in Ireland.


First of all, what is a Judicial Separation?


Essentially, a judicial separation is a court order that allows a couple to live apart and divide their assets without ending the marriage. It can also be an option for couples who are still unsure about whether divorce is right for them. To apply for a Judicial Separation, one of the grounds listed below needs to be met.


What are the grounds for Judicial Separation?


  • You or your spouse have committed adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour: this is behaviour that makes it intolerable for one spouse to continue living with the other. It can include physical or emotional abuse, financial irresponsibility, or alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Desertion: When one spouse has left the other without their agreement for a continuous period of one year, it is considered desertion. However, this ground is rarely used in Ireland.
  • Living apart: The couple must demonstrate to the court that they have lived apart for at least one year at the time of application. It’s important to note that living separately does not necessarily mean living in separate homes, but leading separate lives.
  • A normal marital relationship has not existed between the spouses for at least one year: This is considered to be the most common ground, as neither party has to be shown as being at fault.

While a judicial separation allows both parties to lead separate lives, it’s not a permanent solution. Neither party can remarry until a divorce has been granted; however, having a judicial separation can make the process of divorce significantly more straightforward.


What Are The Grounds For Divorce In Ireland? - Summit Law (2)


So, what are the grounds for divorce in Ireland?


While many clients may want to state adultery or unreasonable behaviour as grounds for divorce, the Divorce Act 1996 created a “no-fault” divorce system in Ireland. So essentially a divorce will be granted once the following three criteria have been met:


1. You and your spouse must be living separately for at least two out of the three years before the start of proceedings. As with Judicial Separation, this does not necessarily mean living in separate homes, but leading independent lives, from cooking and eating, to sleeping and socialising separately. If there is any dispute regarding this, both parties would have to provide adequate evidence to the court for consideration.

2. Both parties need to accept that there is no reasonable prospect of a reconciliation.

3. The Court must be satisfied that suitable arrangements have been or will be made for both parties and more importantly, for any dependents or children.


Since 2021, there has been a 13.5% drop in the number of Judicial separation applications, while the number of divorce applications has continued to rise. It’s clear the new legislation and reduced time frame are having an impact on couples’ decision to choose divorce over a judicial separation.


Unsure of whether you have grounds for divorce in Ireland?


If you are considering a judicial separation or divorce, it’s important to seek legal advice from a reputable and experienced family law firm. Summit Law can help you make sense of the legal complexities involved in divorce proceedings and guide you through the process with compassion, understanding and professionalism.

We understand the emotional toll that divorce can take on individuals and families and are committed to providing support and guidance throughout the process. With our expertise in Family Law, we can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your situation, straightforwardly and affordably.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about our family law services, and don’t forget to also take a look at our blog and resources for more information on a wide range of law matters.