Fears that divorce would lead to the end of family life in Ireland have proven unfounded, according to One Family, the organisation that supports people parenting alone, sharing parenting, and separating.
Reflecting on the anniversary of the introduction of divorce legislation in Ireland in 1997, a spokesperson for One Family said the passing of the constitutional referendum on divorce almost 20 years ago was a groundbreaking acknowledgment of the reality that families in Ireland exist in many forms and that marriage cannot always be forever.
A recent EU-wide survey reveals an overall increase in the number of couples getting divorced. Britain and Finland have the joint highest divorce rate in the EU, while Ireland and Luxembourg have the lowest.
Ireland had the highest proportion of young people in the EU in 2013, according to figures released by the Central Statistics Office. The study also shows that we also had the highest fertility rate in the EU and the highest proportion of young people.
Commenting on the figures, One Family CEO Karen Kiernan said: “We have the third lowest rate of divorce in the world despite fears voiced 18 years ago that the legalisation heralded the end of the family, while the rate of marriage and civil partnership is on the rise.”
The figures show an average of 1.8 divorces for every 1,000 people in the EU. However, in Britain and in Finland, the rate is 2.8 divorces per 1,000, compared with just 0.6 per 1,000 in Luxembourg and Ireland.
“The fact is that relationships do end and couples do separate,” said Ms Kiernan of One Family, an organisation founded as Cherish in 1972. “Sometimes they are parents, too.
“What is important is that they are supported to separate well. Research shows that it is not family form that impacts on a child’s outcomes, but the quality of their relationships at home. Parental conflict has more adverse effects on children than parental separation.”
Ms Kiernan said that, with the right supports, parents can separate well, resolve conflict, manage their finances, and ensure their children remain at the centre of parenting.
“No-one sets out to separate or divorce, especially as a parent, and it is often a very difficult time for all members of the family, with feelings of fear, anger, or blame as a backdrop,” she said.
Service providers, the family law courts, and Government policy should be focussed on the provision of vital and affordable services to support people to separate well, said Ms Kiernan, who revealed that One Family’s counselling, parent mentoring, and mediation services are still lacking in many areas around the country due to a lack of funding.
“We know from working with parents going through separation and divorce that the process of obtaining a divorce is extremely costly and, due to the law, requires an incredibly long time which can be destructive to families,” she said. “The newly introduced Children and Family Relationships Bill will go some way to reforming family law courts but a lot more is needed.”
People experiencing separation or divorce can call the organisation’s helpline on lo-call 1890 62 22 12 for information and support, or to find out more about One Family’s supports for parents who are separating.