Foreign Marriages & Foreign Divorces

Foreign Marriages

If you or your partner are an Irish citizen(s) and are thinking of getting married outside of Ireland, you should realise that the legal validity of your marriage is governed, in part, by the laws of the country in which you marry. In most, if not all cases, the legal formalities abroad are very different to those in Ireland. For example, a church marriage abroad is usually a purely religious ceremony with no legal effect. Because it is not recognised in law in the country in which it takes place, it cannot be regarded as a legal marriage in Ireland. This is the case even though a marriage in the same church or denomination in Ireland can be legally binding. It is very important, therefore, that you make sure to meet all the legal requirements of the country you are marrying in. Provided all the legal rules for marriage in the country where the marriage takes place are complied with the marriage will be recognised as valid in Ireland.

Foreign Divorces

Many couples divorce abroad; however, the rules in Ireland on the recognition of foreign divorces are far from simple. Certain rules apply for divorces applied for prior to October 1986 and different rules apply after that date. In February 2015 the Irish Supreme Court called for new legislation to be introduced to enable a uniform approach to be taken by Courts in dealing with foreign divorces and to do away with the abovementioned distinction.

Certain other rules apply between EU Member States (save Denmark) since Brussels 11 bis Reg. No. 2201/2003 came into force on 1st March 2005. The critical rule under the Brussels 11 bis regulation is that when a court application for separation/divorce is properly made in a Member State then the Courts of that country are entitled to hear the case even if the other spouse would prefer the case was dealt with elsewhere.

As a result of the complexities of international law surrounding foreign divorces and the enforcement of same, it is imperative, if you are an Irish person living abroad, or you are living in Ireland and married to a non-Irish person, that you get prompt legal advice. If you don’t, you run the risk of having to fight a divorce case in a foreign court.