It is a sad but true fact that marriages don’t always last, in fact marriage breakdown is more common than people like to think.  There are several options open for couples in Ireland when dealing with their marriage breakdown.  These are entering into  a seperation agreement, having a judicial separation, a divorce or an annulment.

A Separation Agreement can be drawn up when a couple has formally agreed to parting ways and the agreement is used to put this into writing.  It will state that both parties have decided to live seperately and apart from each other and that they respect and follow the terms of the agreement which will deal with the issues of maintenance, custody of any children and division of assets.  The Separation Agreement is a legally binding contract and the Solicitors of both parties usually facilitate the discussion and consultation to reach a final agreement.  It can also be the lead in document for a judicial separation or divorce.  Entering into a Separation Agreement does not give either party the right to remarry.

A Judicial Separation on the other hand is a ruling issued by the court setting out the terms of a couples separation.  It will deal with issues of maintenance for children and spouse, division of any assets and custody of any children and will make a ruling it considers appropriate taking into account the evidence before it.  The court must also be satisfied that the couple has a reason for the separation, that they know about counselling and mediation and negotiation.  The court order is binding on both parties.  A Judicial Separation does not give either party the right to remarry.

A divorce is also granted by the courts, an application for a divorce can be sought once a couple can prove that they have lived apart from each other for four or more years at the time the application is made.  Again the court must be satisfied that there is a reason for the couple seeking the divorce, that the couple has received advice about councelling, mediation and negotiation.  The court will then make a ruling based on the evidence before it dealing with child custody, access, maintenance, lumps sums, and division of assets including property transfers and pensions.  A Divorce is final and cannot be reversed and when it is granted each party is free to marry again should they wish to.

An annulment is when the court rules that a marriage is null and void, this means in the eyes of the law the marriage never existed.  In the case of annulment there are two types of marriages.  One is a void marriage, this is a marital union that never existed and can be proved as such.  The other is a voidable marriage, this is where a union did happen but one party wants it annulled on certain grounds.  If an annulment is granted then it means no marriage has existed between the couple.  By having a state annulment the parties are free to marry again in the eyes of the state but will need a church annulment if they wish to marry in church.  A church annulment does not give a couple to enter into a marriage with another person, only a state annulment can do that.

If you have marriage difficulties and need advice then contact your solicitor to discuss your options and what will work best for you.

The options a couple have when a marriage breaks down

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