Divorce decrees


A decree of divorce allows both parties to a marriage to remarry. If a court is satisfied that the required conditions (see Rules below) are met, the court will grant the decree of divorce dissolving the marriage. When it grants the decree of divorce, the court may also make orders in relation to custody of children and access to them , the payment of maintenance and lump sums, the transfer of property, the extinguishment of succession rights, pension rights etc.

The fact that the parties must have been living separate lives for a number of years before an application for a divorce is made means that many separating couples obtain a separation agreement or a judicial separation to regulate matters between them before they seek a divorce.

In any application for a decree of divorce, the court can review any previous arrangements made by the parties such as a separation agreement, particularly if the circumstances of either party has changed.

When a decree of divorce is granted, it cannot be reversed. Either party can apply to court to have any orders made under the decree - such as maintenance - reviewed by the court.


Before a court can grant a divorce, the following conditions must be met:

  • The parties must have been living apart from one another for a period amounting to four out of the previous five years before the application is made.
  • There must be no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
  • Proper arrangements must have been made or will be made for the spouse and any dependent members of the family such as children of either party and other relatives.

If these conditions are met, either party to a marriage may apply to court for a decree of divorce. When applying for a divorce you must submit four documents to the Circuit Court:

  • An application form (known as a family law civil bill). This document describes both you and your spouse, your occupations and where you live. It also sets out when you married, for how long you have been living apart and the names and birth dates of your children.
  • A sworn statement of means (Form 37A). This document sets out your assets, your income, your debts, your liabilities and your outgoings.
  • A sworn statement relating to the welfare of your children (Form 37B). This document sets out the personal details of the children of the marriage. It describes where they live and with whom. It also describes their education and training, their health, childcare arrangements and maintenance and access arrangements.
  • A document certifying that you have been advised of the alternatives to divorce (Form 37D). This document is sworn by a solicitor and it certifies that you have been advised about alternative dispute resolution including the options of mediation and separation.

When all of the necessary documents have been filed, you will be given a date for the court hearing. The hearing will be held in private and you will need to show the court that you meet the requirements of the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996. You can read more about the factors considered by a court in a divorce case here. If the court is satisfied that you have grounds for a divorce, it will grant a decree of divorce.

Further information on applying for a divorce is available on the Courts Service website.


You are not legally required to use a solicitor or a barrister. In fact, if you wish, you can choose to represent yourself. However, there may be complex issues which may make it very difficult to apply for a divorce without any professional help.

How to apply

The family law civil bill and sample forms for the statement of means, the statement on children's welfare and the certificate that you have been advised of alternatives are available from the Courts Service website. You can also obtain copies of these forms, and the family law civil bill, from your nearest Circuit Court Office.

Legal advice and representation is always advisable. If you and your spouse disagree about any issue at all it is strongly advised that you go to see a family law solicitor. You and your spouse should not use the same solicitor.

To enquire whether you are eligible for legal aid, you can contact your nearest law centre. Legal aid is not free and everyone must pay a contribution towards costs.

FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent, voluntary organisation that operates a network of legal advice clinics throughout the country. These clinics are confidential, free of charge and open to all. Contact your nearest Citizens Information Centre for information on FLAC services in your area. FLAC also runs an information and referral line during office hours for basic legal information.

If you choose to hire a private solicitor, you should be aware that there is no fixed rate of charges for legal fees. You are advised to obtain some quotes before deciding on a legal firm. Contact information for solicitors firms throughout Ireland is available on the Law Society website.

Page edited: 10 December 2015



Related Documents

  • Dissolution decrees
    A dissolution decree allows both parties to a civil partnership to marry. Special conditions must be met, however, before a court can grant a dissolution.
  • Judicial separation
    Applications for a judicial separation in Ireland are made to the court. Find out what a judicial separation means, how to apply for it and how it works.
  • Nullity of marriage
    Nullity of marriage in Irish law means that a court has declared that your supposed marriage is null and void. Find out more.

Contact Us

If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.