When making divorce or judicial separation orders, a judge has to make sure that proper provision is made for you, your spouse and dependent children. This means that a judge will consider all circumstances of the marriage and aim to make fair decisions that meet everyone's needs.
The main things the judge will consider are:
- Each of your current and future finances.
- The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the break-up of the marriage.
- The age of the spouses, the length of the marriage, and the length of time the spouses lived together.
- Each of your accommodation needs.
- Children of the marriage.
- Any physical or mental disability of either spouse.
- The rights of any other person affected by the divorce or judicial separation.
The judge will also consider any agreements that you reach and any existing court orders.
Divorce and judicial separation can impact many things. These impacts may be complicated and are discussed below. You might want to get legal advice to better understand what's involved with these issues.
What do I need to think about?
Arrangements for children
You can agree the arrangements for looking after your children. You can agree about:
- Custody - this means the day-to-day care of the children and where they will live.
- Access - this means how, when and where the children will spend time with each parent.
- Finances - how you will financially support your children.
- Any other issues about your children’s upbringing, for example, their education and health.
Your agreement about arrangements for your children will be considered by a judge as part of a court order.
If you cannot agree, you can ask the judge to decide. When making orders about children, the judge will consider the needs of the children including their:
- accommodation arrangements
- financial security
- educational support
- physical and mental health
If a judge wants to learn more about the children they may ask for a report from an expert. You will be told what type of report is needed. The name of the person who is to complete the report will be decided in court.
Parents have a duty to financially support their dependent child or children. Depending on your individual circumstances, you may also have a duty to financially support your spouse. This financial support is known as maintenance. The amount of these payments varies depending on your financial situation.
A dependent child is a child who:
- is under 18 years old, or
- is over 18 and under 23 years old but is still in full-time education, or
- is of any age and has a mental or physical disability to the extent that they cannot maintain themselves
You and your spouse or partner can agree on what maintenance payments are reasonable and fair for your circumstances.
Your agreement about maintenance will be considered by a judge as part of a court order.
If you cannot agree, you can ask the judge to decide. When making orders about maintenance, the judge will consider:
- income and living costs
- the costs of raising the children
- property or other financial assets
- obligations you may have to others, for example, maintenance payments for another person
The family home
Separating or divorcing couples need to make a decision about what should happen to the family home. Every family circumstance is different. The most common agreements are to:
- sell the family home immediately
- sell the family home at a later date
- have one spouse or partner buy out the other
- transfer tenancy of the home
Your agreement about the family home will be considered by a judge as part of a court order. If you cannot agree, you can ask the judge to decide. A court order about a family home is called a property adjustment order.
When making a property adjustment order about a family home, a judge will consider:
- family circumstances
- who has the right to live in the family home and for how long
- who has ownership rights in the family home
The Property Registration Authority of Ireland may need to be notified of any property adjustment order.
Money, assets and pensions
You will need to make decisions about any assets you have. Some of these decisions can be complicated and may have an impact on your individual circumstances. Types of assets may include:
- money in financial institutions
- property and personal belongings
- savings and investments
Every pension scheme has its own rules. A divorce or separation may have an impact on yours (if you have one). The trustees of your pension can give you further information. The most common agreements made about pensions are:
- Each spouse or partner only has claim to their own pension.
- A pension is divided between both spouses or partners and/or their dependent children.
A pension adjustment order is needed for each pension that you might have. For more information, visit the Pensions Authority website.
Your agreement on money, assets and pensions will be considered by a judge as part of a court order. If you cannot agree, you can ask the judge to decide.
When making an order about money, assets and pensions, a judge will consider all financial information.
Please note: a divorce affects your right to automatically have a share in the estate of your former spouse or partner on their death. You might want to get legal advice to better understand what's involved.
Where to get help
Now that you have an understanding of what you need to think about, you may want to consider getting mediation, legal or other advice, or contacting support services.
See here for more information on where to get help.