Divorce is back to pre-recession levels after several years when family law disputes were postponed as a result of the economic crash.
According to the Law Society, many couples whose marriages failed had opted not to formalise their split for economic reasons, such as negative equity, mortgage problems, unemployment and emigration.
"People simply couldn't afford to get divorced," said Keith Walsh, chairman of the society's family law committee. But a rise in house prices is among the factors which has seen the numbers divorcing returning to 2008 levels over the past two years. Furthermore, Mr Walsh said overwork, and not adultery, is the cause of most marriage splits in Ireland.
Figures for divorce in the Circuit Court, where the vast majority of divorce proceedings are issued, show 4,214 cases were initiated in 2008. This slumped to a low point of 3,330 in 2011. But the figures have been back up around 2008 levels over the past two years, with 4,290 new sets of proceedings in 2015 and 4,162 last year.
The vast majority of family law cases are currently settled by solicitors and counsel, either through traditional means of negotiations, or negotiations while court proceedings are ongoing.
Mr Walsh said the crash caused "a huge amount of misery" for many couples whose marriage had effectively ended as they were unable to move on with their lives for financial reasons. "People have been living together in the same house, possibly even in two separate beds in the same bedroom. This was widespread for a few years. It has only tailed off in the last two or three years," he said.
Couples can only divorce in Ireland if they have lived separate and apart for four out of the previous five years. Despite the fact many couples have been forced by circumstances to stay under the one roof, the courts will often accept that they have been living separate lives. This stems from a landmark ruling in 2000 when a husband split from his wife but moved back into the family home. He did this to spend more time with his children rather than to reconcile with his wife and slept in a separate room. "The judge said you can be living separate and apart but in the same house. It all depends on what your intention is," said Mr Walsh.
Despite the rebound in divorce numbers, the rate in Ireland still remains the lowest in the EU.
*Source - Irish Independent, 14th September 2017