Minister Flanagan publishes General Scheme of Family Law Bill 2019



11 July 2019


The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, today published the General Scheme of the Family Law Bill 2019, which was approved by Government this week. The main purpose of the Bill will be to amend the law in relation to divorce following the referendum on 24 May.


Minister Flanagan said: “At the referendum held on 24 May, the people voted by an overwhelming majority to amend the Constitution to remove from Article 41.3.2 of the Constitution the minimum living apart period for spouses seeking a divorce; and to replace the text of Article 41.3.3 on foreign divorces. I am delighted now to be in a position to progress legislation to reduce the minimum living apart period specified in the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 to two years during the previous three years. This proposal has widespread cross-party support in the Oireachtas.”


In addition to reducing the minimum living apart period, the Government will also bring forward the following provisions in the Family Law Bill:



The Minister added: “At the heart of the Government’s proposals is a desire to ease the burden on people whose marriages have broken down.  A shorter waiting period for divorce is needed in order to take people out of legal limbo and to lessen the human and financial costs of marital breakdown.  I hope to publish the Family Law Bill in the autumn and bring it through the Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as possible.”


The text of the General Scheme can be found on the website of the Department of Justice and Equality at




Notes for Editors:


The Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Act 2019 was signed into law by the President on 11 June.  The Act provides for the following amendments to the Constitution that were approved by the people in a referendum on 24 May:



The Act does not change the other provisions in Article 41.3.2, namely that: 



The draft General Scheme of the Family Law (Divorce) (Amendment) Bill 2019, which the Minister published in March prior to the referendum, proposed the amendment of the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 to reduce the minimum living apart period specified in section 5 of that Act to two years during the previous three years (from four years during the previous five years). 


Minister Flanagan has indicated that he intends to legislate to introduce greater consistency in the recognition of foreign divorces and that he will be guided by the expert report of the Law Reform Commission in developing proposals for comprehensive legislation in this area. The Law Reform Commission has included an examination of recognition of foreign divorces in its Fifth Programme of Law Reform, which was published on 5 June 2019.