Family - Relationship Breakdown

RelationshipsRelationship Breakdown

The breakdown of a personal relationship is distressing and difficult for all involved. Don’t make a decision in a hurry and do consider how your decision will be imparted to everyone else, including your children. Counselling can often assist in these circumstances for both parties.
For further information contact:

a) - Divorce
There is only one ground for divorce – Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage. The irretrievable breakdown is evidenced by one of five facts:

- Adultery
- Unreasonable Behaviour
- Desertion for 2 years
- Separation for 2 years where the other party consents
- Separation for 5 years

Even if one of the above is present a divorce is not available in the first 12 months of a marriage. 

A divorce is started by way of Petition which is issued by the court. This is served on the other party and they have to file an Acknowledgement of Service at court . If the proceedings are not defended then the divorce will usually take about 6 months to complete.

An application is made for Decree Nisi and then 6 weeks and 1 day later an application can be made for Decree Absolute. Often if financial matters have not been resolved the application for Decree Absolute will be delayed until they are. It often doesn’t matter who divorces who but it can have important consequences in certain situations.

b) - Divorce Alternatives

Separation Agreements
If you wish to separate and sort out financial matters without going through a divorce then you can seek advice on having a Separation Agreement drawn up. You may need to consider Tax implications and take advice. This may not be appropriate if Pensions need to be shared.

These documents can help you set out in a formal way such things as whether you plan to divorce after a period of separation; what the arrangements are for the children; what is going to happen to the savings and the home or other property; what financial support is going to be given. These can be set aside by a court on a later divorce, but rarely are if both of you have had independent legal advice, each party is fully aware of the other party’s financial circumstances and there is no fraud or misrepresentation by one party trying to hide assets or debts.

Judicial Separation
This involves a court process and is like a divorce but the marriage is not brought to an end. The court can make financial orders. This is often used in situations where for religious reasons parties do not wish to divorce, or where an agreement can’t be reached because one party is refusing to provide financial information to draw up a Separation Agreement. Parties need to prove the same facts to support a Judicial Separation Petition as they would a Divorce and therefore the costs consequences are similar. The costs would therefore be duplicated if a divorce was sought at a later stage. Judicial Separation proceedings can be amended to become a Divorce Petition and therefore this can be dangerous to embark upon if this is not what you as the Respondent wish.

Other options
There are other options available for maintenance to be paid to a spouse without having to issue a Divorce under the Matrimonial Causes Act S27. Children’s Maintenance can be obtained by an application to the Child Support Agency (CSA). This can be a time consuming and frustrating process and often it is better to try and reach an agreement in this regard.

c) - Living Together
Despite many people believing this to be the case there is no such thing as a common law marriage. Couples who simply live together have no legal rights against them or have a responsibility to maintain them. If there is a child of the relationship then there is an obligation to support the child. There can potentially be a right to a share in a property but that is not automatic as it would be either in a marriage or a civil partnership. Please see the Finance Tab for further information on property rights. 

 As with b) above you can enter into a Separation Agreement or consider the CSA.

Court Proceedings
Please see the relevant section in this website for information on court proceedings and options available to you when you split up after living together.

d) - Civil Partnership
A civil partnership is a relationship between 2 people of the same sex which has very similar legal rights to a heterosexual marriage. In order to be a civil partnership the same sex relationship must be formed by way of a formal Civil Ceremony. Otherwise the parties are simply living together or cohabiting and would not have the same rights. There is no provision for a Religious recognition of such a Partnership. If a civil partnership breaks down and one party desires to bring the Partnership to an end then the process is known as Dissolution.

A Civil Partnership can be brought to an end if there is an irretrievable breakdown of the relationship.

This is evidenced by one of 4 facts:

- Unreasonable Behaviour
- 2 years desertion
- 2 years separation where the other party consents
- 5 years separation

The Procedure and Other Alternatives are similar to a) and b) above.

If you wish to discuss any of the above matters please don not hesitate to contact us on 0191 213 1010 or on