Divorce referendum explainer: What are the proposed changes, who can vote and what is the current law?

AS Ireland prepares to go to the polls on Friday, we will be asked whether we want to change the current legislation regarding the regulation of divorce.

Before you cast your vote in the divorce referendum, here are all of your questions answered:

What are the proposed changes?

We are being asked to vote on two proposals.

  • The first is to regarding the length of time that people have lived apart before they can be granted a divorce.

Currently the spouses must be living apart for four out of the past five years to be eligible for divorce, we are being asked whether we want to remove this.

  • The second proposal is regarding the recognition of foreign divorces.

At the moment the Constitution prevents people who have got a divorce that isn’t recognised under Irish law from getting married again during their former spouse’s lifetime.

Some foreign divorces are recognised by the State under existing law and different rules apply depending on where and when it was obtained.

The proposal is that divorces granted under the civil law of another country would be recognised.

Will there be one question on the ballot paper or two?

Even though it’s two proposals there will be just one question.

Voters will be asked whether they approve of the Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016.

There will be a box saying ‘yes’ and another for ‘no’, put an ‘X’ in whichever one you want, do not mark any other part of the ballot paper or your vote will be spoiled.

What happens if it’s a majority ‘yes’ vote?

If it’s a yes vote the Constitution will change.

The first change will be that a person applying for a divorce won’t have to live apart from their spouse for a minimum of four out of the past five years. The minimum four year period will still apply unless and until it is changed by the Oireachtas.

The second change is that the Oireachtas’ powers to make laws recognising foreign divorces will now be recognised under the Constitution.

The prohibition on someone who has been granted a foreign divorce from remarrying will be removed, although they will still be prevented from marrying again unless their foreign divorce is recognised under Irish law.

What happens if it’s a majority ‘no’ vote?

If it is a majority no vote the Constitution will stay the same.

When will voting take place?

The referendum will take place this Friday, May 24, which is also when voting in the local and European elections will happen.

Polling stations will be open from 7am until 10pm.

Who can vote?

You must have registered to vote, you can see if you are by logging onto

Only Irish citizens can vote in the referendum.

EU citizens can vote in the European and local elections.

Non-EU citizens can vote just in the local elections.

Where do I vote?

You should receive a polling car before Friday telling you which polling station you can vote at.

If you don’t receive a polling card but are registered you are still eligible to vote.

What do I need to bring to vote?

Bring a valid form of ID such as a passport, driving licence or public services card.

  • For more information please visit


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