When a marriage breaks down the parties concerned have a number of choices including, to continue to live together, to separate and agree terms on how they intend to function in regard to children, family home, maintenance etc or to separate and seek provision and enforcement of their rights through the use of the courts.

Marriage Counselling

When a marriage is in trouble there is no substitute for professional guidance and marriage counselling is highly recommended even if it merely demonstrates the differences between the parties and the gap that needs to be bridged if the marriage is to be saved. And if the marriage is to end, there should be only one way to end it, and that is with dignity and proper provision for any dependent children and the spouses concerned.

However, before you decide that your marriage is over you may wish to seek an alternative and professional opinion and help with the difficulties faced in your relationship and there is no shortage of organisations and counselling agencies available.

Accord has 57 centres throughout Ireland and over 800 trained members who provide a professional service in a safe and non judgemental environment. They can be contacted at their central office at Accord Central Office, Columba Centre, Maynooth, Co Kildare on 01/5053112 or visit their website


If you have decided to separate or divorce or are already separated and you wish to negotiate your own terms of settlement then you may wish to engage in mediation.

Mediation is a process whereby use is made of a mediator or referee to help spouses negotiate on the issues of custody and parenting, maintenance, child-care, the family home and living arrangements, the sharing of assets and liabilities, debts etc. This process can ensure that the interests of both parties and the children are addressed. A mediation agreement therefore can be a first step in coming to terms with the difficulties encountered in a marriage separation and can be a prelude to their own separation agreement.

The Department of Social Community and Family Affairs operate a free Family Mediation Service with Full Time Offices at various centers throughout the country. The mediators do not provide legal advice. They can be contacted at 01/6344320. This route is recommended especially if both parties are finding it difficult to agree a settlement.

The Family Mediation Service describes the role of the mediator as follows:

  • To see a couple together and help them settle their differences
  • To create a climate in which neither party dominates but in which both parties participate fully in good faith
  • To create and maintain an atmosphere of co-operation and responsibility
  • To help couples deal with difficult emotional issues that can prevent them reaching agreement
  • To help couples reach agreement that they believe to be fair, equitable and workable

Mediation Services

The advantages of using a mediation service have been described as:

  • The encouragement they give to both spouses to reach their own agreement
  • The assistance given to both spouses to continue as parents with workable plans
  • What is discussed and agreed cannot be used in a court of law subsequently and therefore parties are encouraged to negotiate openly
  • Attendance is not mandatory so participation is by choice
  • Mediation promotes a balanced solution to a families problems
  • It can bring stability to family arrangements when most needed
  • A mediation agreement can be made into a separation agreement

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