What You Need to Know About the Divorce Referendum

Including how to make sure that you're registered to vote.

The ban on divorce was taken out of the constitution and signed into law in June 1996.

On 24 May, the Referendum Commission will ask the Irish electorate to vote on the removal of constitutional references to the minimum period an estranged couple must spend apart before receiving the permanent court decree.

Under the current system, married couples need to have lived apart for at least four years during the previous five years.

The new proposals would see that reduced to just two years, with the Oireachtas providing the legislation for this. 

The other aspect of the Constitution that will change if the referendum is passed relates to the recognition of foreign divorces.

Culture Minister and former family lawyer Josepha Madigan brought forward legislation as a backbencher before she became part of Ireland's minority Fine Gael-led Government.

"Four years is a difficult, unconscionable time for people when they are going through a separation," she said. 

"They are stuck in limbo land, it often results in increasing the hostility between couples and it obviously has an adverse effect on their children.

"It also increases the costs that are involved by having two sets of proceedings."

The minister said two years was a reasonable time during which people could sort out their finances, property, pensions and accommodation. She finally urged those who have been through the process to come forward and tell their stories ahead of the forthcoming vote. 

The 1995 referendum saw the Irish public vote to end the country’s blanket ban on divorce by a narrow margin of 50.28% voting in favour and 49.79% against.

The ban on divorce was taken out of the constitution and signed into law in June 1996.

“In order to vote, your name has to be on the register of electors for the address at which you normally live and checking if you are registered is really very simple," Chairperson of the Referendum Commission, Tara Burns said.

"You can find out by checking at www.checktheregister.ie or you can also check the register in local authority offices, post offices, Garda stations and public libraries.”

All those who wish to vote in the Divorce Referendum must be registered by Tuesday 7, May.

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