The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors that we have covered in more detail below. However, as an approximate guide you will need to allow around 12 months from the date application. More complicated divorce cases may take 2 to 3 years, or possibly even longer.
Starting the process
Before you can start the process of filing for a divorce you need to check that you are eligible to do so. In Ireland, the requirements are quite straightforward and are as follows.
Firstly, you must have lived apart from your spouse for a minimum of 2 out of the past 3 years. The Family Law Act 2019 clarifies that couples can be deemed to live apart even if residing in the same household, as long as they’re not in an intimate, committed relationship. The Act also specifies that intimacy doesn’t solely refer to a sexual relationship.
Secondly, either spouse should either be living permanently in Ireland at the time of the application or have resided in Ireland for the year preceding the application. Finally, there should be a mutual understanding that reconciliation is not an option and appropriate provisions should be in place for the well-being of both spouses, any children, and dependent family members.
If you have determined that you meet the eligibility criteria for a divorce, you can then begin the initial proceedings which involves preparing and filing various documents including a Family Law Civil Bill, an Affidavit of Means, an Affidavit of Welfare (if children are involved), and a Notice of Motion.
Whilst it’s possible to prepare and file these documents with the relevant court yourself, it’s highly advisable to consult with an experienced family solicitor at this stage of the process. Your solicitor will ensure that these documents are prepared and served properly, as well as acting as the point of contact with your spouse and/or their legal representatives.
The initial process of preparing and serving your documents may take around 3 to 6 months, depending upon how quickly you are able to respond to matters presented to you by your solicitor. When the divorce proceedings are served to your spouse, the amount of time it will then take for a final decree to be issued will depend upon the extent to which you agree over the terms, and how engaged the respondent spouse is with the process.
If your divorce is uncontested (you are both in full agreement over the terms), the process can be relatively swift. Once the application is submitted, and if all necessary conditions are met, the court proceedings will take a few months. The overall duration can vary based on the court’s schedule and the complexity of your case but, generally, an uncontested divorce might be finalised in 4 to 6 months after the application is made.
If your divorce is contested (you do not agree over one or more of the terms), the duration of the court proceedings will be protracted. Your spouse will file a Defence document (disputing any of the terms in the Civil Bill), and you will need to enter negotiations or mediation to reach an agreement over issues such as property division, child custody, spousal support, or any other financial matters. Given the complexities and intricacies involved in contested divorces, the duration can vary significantly. If the negotiation or mediation stage is successful, the full process might take 18 to 30 months. In some rare circumstances, challenging contested divorce cases can take 3 years or longer to reach a final decree.
Factors that can lengthen the divorce process
Even if you are in full agreement with your spouse, there are many factors that can contribute to extending the amount of time it takes for a final decree of divorce to be issued. This includes the following:
- The mediation or negotiation process – if you can resolve any disputes over the terms through mediation or negotiation, you will be able to finalise your divorce faster. However, if you are unable to agree, it will have to be decided by a judge in court who has the final say. A good solicitor will do everything they can to help you reach a fair and equitable settlement out of court.
- The respondent spouse is slow to engage or does not engage at all – sometimes this is simply due to the respondent being very busy. However, there may be some scenarios where the respondent deliberately avoids engaging. In these circumstances, a motion to compel may be required, which is a court procedure forcing the other spouse to respond.
- Whether you have a separation agreement or decree of judicial separation – whilst formal separation proceedings are not required to seek a divorce, a legally binding separation agreement can help streamline the divorce process. If you do not have such an agreement in place, then your divorce may take longer depending on whether it is contested or uncontested.
- The complexity of the case – even if the end to your marriage is reasonably amicable, and you agree on most of the terms, you may find your divorce still takes longer if there are intricate financial assets, businesses, or property portfolios involved.
- Child custody and welfare – any disagreements over the custody and welfare of your children can significantly delay the issue of your divorce. Your solicitor will need to engage in a lot of correspondence to help resolve this very emotive and sensitive area.
- The court schedule may be particularly busy – the caseload and schedule of the court can influence the speed at which your case progresses. A backlog in the court’s calendar can delay proceedings.
Concerned about how long it will take to be granted your divorce?
If your marriage has ended and you are concerned about how long it will take to be issued a divorce, the family law team at McCarthy + Co would be happy to assist you with any questions you might have about the process. Simply arrange a consultation with us using our highly confidential form, and we will get back to you to arrange an appointment with one of our solicitors.