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Family Law

At C. N. Doherty & Co. Solicitors we understand that when marriage breaks down that this is a traumatic event in the life of those involved, which is why we aim to guide you through the process with the primary purpose of you achieving the best possible outcome available. We are conscious of the trauma involved therefore; we strive to keep any stress which you may experience to a minimum. We act on behalf of spouses, parents, guardians and children in all aspects of Family Law. We also represent clients through the process of mediated Family Law settlements which can involve many complex matters and can be time consuming. Our experience has shown that as these procedures can be difficult on families, therefore we strive to be sensitive in our approach while at the same time having you as our client to the forefront of our considerations.

When a marriage breaks down, a couple can regulate matters between them as best they can. In Ireland, to regulate the legal affairs of a couple whose marriage has ended, there are three options avail, Separation Agreements, Judicial Separation and Divorce.

Separation Agreements:

This occurs where the parties reach an agreement that both parties live separate lives and be bound by that agreement. This agreement must be consensual on behalf each party. Separation Agreement has a number of issues that should be dealt with.

• Agreement to live separate and apart
• Arrangements as regards custody and access to their children
• Maintenance or lump sum payments 
• The ownership and occupation of the family home or of any other property which may exist.
• Indemnifying each other as regards personal debts in the future
• Succession Rights
• Taxation

Separation agreements can be reached through mediation of through the parties Solicitors. With mediation, one mediator can deal directly with the couple together; however each party must always ensure that they have access to their own Solicitor who will independently advise on the situation.

The Separation Agreement when signed by the parties becomes legally binding and both parties will be bound by that agreement. In the event that the parties wish that the Separation Agreement become a rule of court, an application can be made to have the agreement ruled upon. This makes it easier to have the terms of the Agreement enforced and more so where children are concerned.

Judicial Separation

Where a couple cannot reach agreement to live separate and apart, the appropriate procedure is to make an application to the appropriate Court for a Decree of Judicial Separation. Either party can make the application. In order that the court grants such Decree, the Court must be satisfied that the grounds exist so that the order can be made. The application must be base on one of the following:

• One party committed adultery.
• One party behaves in such a way that it would be unreasonable to expect the other spouse to continue to live with them.
• One party has deserted the other for at least one year at the time of the application.
• The parties have lived apart from one another for one year up to the time of the application and both parties agree to the decree being granted.
•  The parties have lived apart from one another for at least three years at the time of the application for the decree (whether or not both parties agree to the decree being granted)
• The court considers that a normal marital relationship has not existed between the spouses for at least one year before the date of the application for the decree.

The last is the most common ground on which the Court will grant a Decree as neither party has to be shown as being at fault.
Further, the Court must be satisfied that the couple has been advised about counselling and mediation, that proper provision has been made for the welfare of any dependants. If the Court is satisfied, it will grant a Decree of Judicial Separation. This Decree is confirmation that the couple are no longer obliged to live together as a married couple. The court may also make any other order in relation to custody and access to children, the payment of maintenance and lump sums, the transfer of property, the extinguishment of succession rights, etc.


Divorce is the final termination of a marriage thereby canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage. When a Court grants a Decree of Divorce, it dissolves the bonds of matrimony that existed between the parties. However, the Court must be satisfied that the required conditions are met before it will grant the Decree. When the Court grants the Decree, it may also make orders in relation to custody and access of children, the payment of maintenance and lump sums, the transfer of property, the extinguishment of succession rights, pension rights etc.
So that the Decree can be granted by the Court, a number of conditions must be met:

• The parties must have been living apart for a period amounting to four out of the previous five years before the application is made.
•  There must be no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
• Proper arrangements must have been made or will be made for the spouse and any dependent members of the family such as the children of either party and other relatives.

The fact that the parties must have been living separate lives for four out of the five years before an application for a divorce is made means that many separating couples already have obtained a Separation Agreement or a Judicial Separation to regulate their affairs.

In any application for a Decree of Divorce, the court can review any previous arrangements made by the parties such as a Separation Agreement, particularly if the circumstances of either party has changed.

When a Decree of Divorce is granted, it cannot be reversed. However either party may apply to the court for a review of matters such as maintenance or access. Once granted, both parties are free to remarry.
One key thing to understand and be aware of is that in all Family Law matters, all such cases are heard in-camera, in other words, in private and the public are not permitted to be present in the courtroom.

If you have a Family Law matter that you wish to discuss with us, please contact us (click here, make an appointment) and we will be happy to assist.