Divorce in Ireland
In November 1995, Ireland voted to remove the constitutional ban on divorce, with the YES campaign sweeping a narrow 51% victory. So, 20 years later, what have been the effects of that decision? Contrary to the fears of the NO campaign, the Irish are slow to divorce demonstrated by the lowest rate of divorce in the EU and third lowest in the world. People in their 20s and 30s have grown up with the option of divorce, yet people continue to marry in large numbers.
- In 2012, the marriage rate was 4.6%; this is higher than it was at the time of the referendum (4.3%)
- 22,045 marriages and 392 civil partnerships were registered in 2014
- According to the Courts Service 2013 annual report, there were 3,609 applications for divorce in 2012, just 4% more applications than the previous year
- 2,924 divorces were granted in 2012
- Over 88% (19,413) of marriages were the first marriage for both the groom and bride
- There were 2,451 marriages involving at least one divorced person in 2014
What are the financial effects on the family?
The Central Statistics Office’s 2013 survey on income and living conditions confirms that one in four families with children in Ireland is a one-parent family. Alarmingly, the survey shows that 63% of one-parent family households in Ireland suffer deprivation. With a third of these families resulting from divorce, there is no doubting that people parenting alone are being hit the hardest. Determined to do their best for their children’s futures, 53% of lone parents are in the labour market. But current policies mean that the barriers to lone parents returning to employment or education are leading to an increasing dependence on social welfare over time.
The statistics make for stark reading:
- More than one in four families with children in Ireland is headed by a lone parent (215,315 families)
- Mothers head the vast majority of one-parent families (87%), with lone fathers heading 13% of families
- Almost one in five children (18.3%) lives in a one-parent family in Ireland, far higher than the European average of 13%
- There are 308,109 children living with a lone mother, and 43,887 children living with a lone father
- The majority of lone parents (58%) have just one child, while over a quarter have 2 children, and just 15% have 3 or more
- Just over 4 in 10 lone parents are in paid work, as compared with 7 in 10 heads of two-parent families
- One-parent families are more than twice as likely to live in consistent poverty than two-parent families
- One in three families in Ireland doesn’t conform to the traditional two-parent family model
- 18% of children in Ireland live with lone parents, of whom the majority (16%) are with lone mothers. This makes the one-parent family the second most common family type after the ‘standard’ two-parent family
- One in four lone mothers is a fulltime homemaker, but just under 5% of lone fathers
- Childcare provision in Ireland is one of the poorest in the EU. Ireland spends less than 0.2% of its GDP on care and education for preschool children. There is no system of out-of-school childcare provision in Ireland
- Childcare costs take up 29% of a dual-earning two-parent family’s net income, but an extraordinarily high 52% of a lone parent’s net income
So, is it all worth it?
Irish society cherishes the family and it is clear that nobody gets married while eagerly anticipating a divorce in their future. Yet for those who have married and for compelling reasons need to get out of it, divorce is a welcome and necessary institution. However, Ireland has a long way to go to create structures and provide support for these ‘new’ families that have an equal right to quality of life and hope for the future.