What is the difference between Judicial Separation and Divorce in Ireland?

When couples are separated they have a few different legal routes open to them to formalise the breakdown.

They can:

  • Enter a Deed of Separation which is a private legal contract between them
  • Seek a Judicial Separation
  • File for divorce.

Some people file for Judicial Separation because they did not meet the time requirement of living separate and apart for 2 out of the last 3 years to qualify for divorce. For other people, their religious or personal beliefs mean they don’t want the title of divorce but do want to split their assets and formalise their position in relation to their children.

A Judicial Separation follows the same legal process as that for divorce. One party files and serves a Family Law Civil Bill and if the parties cannot agree matters that other can file a Defence and Counterclaim.

In both a Judicial Separation and a divorce, the Court can make Orders on a wide range of things, including:

  • Custody and Access,
  • Maintenance,
  • Property Orders relating to the family home or other property
  • Pension adjustment orders
  • Blocking each person’s rights to the others estate when they die.

The main difference is that under a Judicial Separation order, neither party is free to re-marry. Often that does not bother clients too much as they swear they’ll never marry again!