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Family Law Jurisdictional Comparisons, European Lawyer 2013

27 August 2013

1. SOURCES OF LAW

1.1 What is the primary source of law in relation to the breakdown of marriage and the welfare of children within the jurisdiction?

The Constitution of Ireland, specifically Articles 41 and 42, recognises the family as the most important social unit in the State and accord a special position to the ‘family’ based on marriage. While the Constitution dates from 1937, accession to the European Union and other international treaties facilitated the development of modern Irish family law, which is now primarily sourced within a statutory framework. The Judicial Separation and Family Law Reform Act 1989 first introduced the concept of judicial separation and extensive ancillary relief orders. That Act was subsequently amended and enhanced by the Family Law Act 1995 which remains in operation. Divorce was introduced by a narrow majority following a referendum on 24 November 1995 which resulted in new provisions at Article 41 and the enactment of the Family Law (Divorce) Act, 1996.


The Constitution continues to afford special protection to the ‘family’ based on marriage, a proposition which seems outdated given the recent introduction of civil partnership and a protective statutory regime for certain ‘qualified’ cohabitants, see the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act, 2010.

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