Journal Article

Small Bang? The Impact of Divorce Legislation on Marital Breakdown in Ireland

Tony Fahey

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 26, issue 2, pages 242-258
Published in print August 2012 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online June 2012 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI:
Small Bang? The Impact of Divorce Legislation on Marital Breakdown in Ireland

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A substantial academic literature has grown up on whether liberalization of the law on divorce in western countries helped cause an increase in marital breakdown, with the weight of evidence now seeming to suggest that it did. The introduction of divorce in Ireland in 1997 is usually thought of as a typical, though delayed, example of this pattern. This article queries this interpretation and suggests that the advent of divorce had limited legal or behavioural impact in Ireland. It explains this limited impact as a matter of delayed timing: divorce became available so late that the de-institutionalisation of marriage and the rise of family instability associated with it were already far advanced and were beyond being strongly influenced by further change in the law. The article points to some implications of this argument for research in other countries, particularly in regard to measurement of trends in marital breakdown.

Journal Article.  6850 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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