Marriage Breakdown in Ireland c.1660-1857

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


In 1996, when the Irish parliament passed the Family Law (Divorce) Act, it was hailed as the introduction of divorce to Ireland. Yet, it had been possible for men and women to secure divorces of various kinds from the earliest times. Early Irish law permitted divorce as did canon law. By the later medieval period, ecclesiastical courts were empowered to grant divorces, even if a divorced spouse was not always permitted to remarry. In the eighteenth century, the Irish parliament followed the precedent set by Westminster and began to approve the dissolution of marriages by private act of parliament. In addition, the different Christian denominations each had their own distinct regulations on marital dissolution, some of which also permitted remarriage in certain circumstances. Outside of the formal structures of church and state, men and women made their own informal arrangements to leave unhappy marriages. The aim of this chapter is to survey the different forms of divorce and marriage separation that were possible in early modern Ireland and to suggest that married couples living apart and, even remarrying was more common than might be assumed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLaw and Family in Ireland 1800-1950
EditorsNiamh Howlin, Kevin Costello
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)137-60638-9
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2017

Publication series

NamePalgrave Modern Legal History series


  • marraige; legal history; divorce


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