Legal requirements for marriage
Marriage is a legally binding contract that affects you and your partner (and, to a certain extent, your children) for all of your lives. There are certain rules and regulations about who you can and cannot marry, and in what circumstances.
Capacity to marry
For your marriage to be legally valid in Ireland, you must both have the capacity to marry each other. This means you and your future spouse must meet all of the following requirements at the time the marriage takes place. You must:
- Be over 18 years of age. This is the case even if either person lives in Ireland but you marry outside of Ireland. Even if you are not ordinarily resident in the State, you must be over 18 years of age to marry someone in Ireland.
- Freely consent to the marriage. This means you cannot be forced to marry someone.
- Observe the necessary marriage formalities. For example, you must have contacted the Civil Registration Service and, unless exempted, given the marriage Registrar 3 months' notice of your intention to marry, and been issued with a Marriage Registration Form. If your civil partnership was registered in Ireland, you do not have to give the 3 months' notice.
- Be either single, widowed, divorced, a former civil partner of a civil partnership that ended through death or dissolution, or have had a civil annulment of a marriage or civil partnership or a valid foreign divorce or dissolution. (If you are marrying your civil partner you do not need to have your civil partnership dissolved before marrying. It will be automatically dissolved when you marry.)
- Have the mental capacity to understand the nature of marriage
- Not be related by blood or marriage to a degree that legally prohibits you from marrying each other. If you are related to your proposed spouse by blood or by marriage, you should contact a solicitor to ensure that you do not fall within the prohibited degree of relationship. (See 'If you are related by blood or marriage' below.)
If you do not meet even one of the above requirements, then any subsequent marriage ceremony is legally void (invalid).
If you were divorced abroad
Not all foreign divorces are recognised under Irish law. Under the Domicile and Recognition of Foreign Divorces Act 1986, a foreign divorce from a non-EU state will only be recognised in Ireland if at least one spouse was domiciled in the state that granted the divorce when the proceedings started. You may have to provide good evidence that this was the case and, therefore, that the divorce is valid under Irish law.
Foreign divorces made in other EU states are recognised under EU Regulation 2201/2003 (“the Brussels II bis”). It is the spouse’s habitual residence that determines a court’s right to grant a divorce. In this case, your habitual residence is the country in which you have lawfully established your day to day life.
UK divorces continue to be recognised in Ireland under Part 19 of the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Act 2020. Again, a habitual residence test applies in respect to divorces on or after 1 January 2021.
If the divorce comes within EU regulations, it is sufficient to confirm that both parties to the divorce were notified of the proceedings and had an opportunity to give evidence to the court which granted the divorce.
If EU regulations do not apply, you must give certain information (such as place of birth, countries of residence and other relevant facts) on a questionnaire provided by the Registrar. The information is then forwarded to the General Register Office, whose consent is required before the marriage ceremony can take place.
If the General Registrar thinks the foreign divorce is valid, then the new marriage can go ahead. If not, you can give additional information to prove validity, or you can apply for a hearing before the Circuit Court. The court's decision on the validity of a foreign divorce in Irish law is binding on the parties unless it is overturned on appeal. If the court decides your foreign divorce is not binding, your only option if you wish to remarry in Ireland may be to get a divorce under Irish law.
If your civil partnership was dissolved abroad
If you had a legal dissolution of your civil partnership or equivalent legal relationship granted outside Ireland, it will be recognised under Irish law if the Minister of Justice made an order recognising an equivalent legal relationship in the country where the dissolution was granted.
If you are related by blood or marriage
Certain people related by blood or marriage cannot get married. A couple who fall within these 'prohibited degrees of relationship' cannot marry. These prohibitions are based on:
- Consanguinity – a blood relationship including half blood (half blood means having one parent in common, for example, a half-brother)
- Affinity – relationship by marriage
The prohibited degrees apply to a wide range of family relationships, including marital and non-marital children.
You can marry your deceased spouse's sister or brother. This also applies if your marriage ends due to a divorce rather than a death.
There is no legal restriction on the marriage of first cousins.
Consanguinity – blood relationships
You may not marry your:
- Grandmother or grandfather
- Mother or father
- Father’s sister (aunt) or brother (uncle)
- Mother’s sister (aunt) or brother (uncle)
- Sister or brother
- Father’s daughter (half sister) or son (half brother)
- Mother’s daughter (half sister) or son (half brother)
- Daughter or son
- Son’s daughter (granddaughter) or son (grandson)
- Daughter’s daughter (granddaughter) or son (grandson)
- Brother’s daughter (niece) or son (nephew)
- Sister’s daughter (niece) or son (nephew)
Affinity – relationship by marriage
You may not marry your:
- Grandfather’s or grandmother’s spouse (step-grandmother or step-grandfather)
- Father’s or mother’s spouse (stepmother or stepfather)
- Father’s brother’s or sister's spouse
- Mother’s brother’s or sister's spouse
- Son’s or daughter’s spouse
- Son’s son’s or daughter’s spouse
- Daughter’s son’s or daughter’s spouse
- Brother’s son’s or daughter’s spouse
- Sister’s son’s or daughter’s spouse
- Spouse's grandmother (grandmother-in-law) or grandfather (grandfather-in-law)
- Spouse's mother (mother-in-law) or father (father-in-law)
- Spouse's father’s sister or brother
- Spouse's mother’s sister or brother
- Spouse's daughter (stepdaughter) or son (stepson)
- Spouse's son’s son or daughter
- Spouse's daughter’s son or daughter
- Spouse's brother’s son or daughter
- Spouse's sister’s son or daughter
Getting married for immigration purposes
If a couple is getting married solely for an immigration advantage, this is known as a ‘marriage of convenience’. A ‘marriage of convenience’ is a marriage where at least one of you:
- is a foreign national at the time of entry into the marriage, and
- enters into the marriage only for the purpose of securing an immigration advantage for one or both of the parties to the marriage
A marriage Registrar has the right to investigate and decide whether an intended marriage would be a marriage of convenience for immigration purposes. If, following investigation, the Superintendent Registrar decides that a proposed marriage is a marriage of convenience, then they will not issue a Marriage Registration Form, which is necessary to get married. This means the marriage may not proceed. The decision may be appealed to the Circuit Court.
If you meet the requirements outlined above, you should then consider how you wish to marry. There are different types of legally-binding marriage ceremonies in Ireland, including religious, secular and civil marriage ceremonies. If you are marrying through a religious or secular ceremony, you should discuss their requirements with the celebrant of your marriage.