When a marriage ends, it is common for both parties to want to get divorced quickly so that they can have a fresh start and move on with their life. While a divorce does not always guarantee the fresh start that people expect, having that decree can bring a certain degree of closure and comfort to people.
Unfortunately, the process of obtaining a divorce in Ireland is not quick. There was a significant backlog of cases around the country before Covid-19 shut the courts down and this has increased even further.
It is helpful to look at the divorce process in Ireland to see where matters tend to get stuck.
The divorce process in Ireland
The Applicant (this can be either spouse) files and serves a Family Law Civil Bill along with their Affidavit of Means (setting out their financial position) and Affidavit of Welfare (if there are dependent children of the family).
The other spouse (the Respondent) must file an Entry of Appearance within 10 days of service.
The Respondent’s Defence and Affidavits of Means and Welfare must be filed within 10 days clear of their Appearance being filed.
This is where time can start to slip. If the Respondent has not been expecting the proceedings, they might not have met a solicitor or maybe they want to ignore the proceedings for a while.
If a Respondent does not file a Defence, the Applicant’s solicitor will send a 14 day warning letter. This gives the Respondent a further 14 days to file a Defence failing which a Notice of Motion in Default of Defence can be brought.
Serving a Notice of Motion of Default of Defence (or Default of Appearance if that was not received) will add a month or so on to proceedings for each motion that has to be brought. At the first motion, the County Registrar will usually give the Respondent a further two to three weeks to file their legal documents.
If the Defence is still not received, it can take two or even three motions before the matter is transferred to the judge’s list. It might then take another month or so to get on the judge’s list.
You can see how time is starting to clock up.
The Defence is filed, now what is the hold up?
Once the Defence is filed, there can be a lot of back and forth between the solicitors on the financial disclosure made by each side. There can also be a lot of issues regarding custody, access and the family home.
By the time both sides are ready for settlement talks, 6 months to a year may have passed depending on how many issues there are. If the matter does not settle, a court hearing make take another 6 months or more.
But it will be decided at the hearing, right?
Unless your matter is number one or two on the list, it may not be reached on the day. You will then have to wait a month or two to find out your new court date… and the same thing might happen again.
The system is far from ideal, however, it does provide a good incentive for people to settle the matter outside of court and obtain a divorce on consent. A consent hearing ought to be available within 6 months of reaching an agreement and lasts roughly 15 minutes.
So, the long answer to a short question
Divorce in Ireland can take a long time if it is contested and might be in the region of 18 months to more than 2.5 years depending on where you are in the country.
A good divorce solicitor will help progress your case and encourage settlement talks once all the financial disclosure is complete.