Dublin, Ireland (CNN)In the last four and a half years, Michael Rossney has been to court 40 times and spent tens of thousands of euros on legal fees. Like some 118,000 people in Ireland, his marriage has broken down and he is separated from his partner.
It takes at least 4 years to apply for divorce in Ireland. Friday's vote is another test of the nation's values
As the Dublin native seeks a divorce, his legal and financial situation may sound difficult, but this is not unusual in Ireland due to the country's divorce laws, which are among the most restrictive in Europe.
Under current legislation, which is enshrined in the country's constitution, a person can only apply for a divorce after living separately from their spouse for four out of the previous five years.
No one is exempt from this mandatory wait time, including those who are trying to leave abusive relationships, most of whom are women. Women suffering from domestic abuse could benefit from a shorter divorce process in order to protect themselves -- and their children -- from continued abuse from a former spouse, according to the National Women's Council of Ireland.
Other individuals in the process of separating, like Rossney, argue that the minimum wait time creates unnecessary levels of anxiety, prohibits their ability to move on, wreaks havoc on their emotional well-being and is a terrible financial burden.
That could all change on May 24 when Ireland goes to the polls in a referendum on divorce.
Any changes to the Irish constitution must be approved by a public referendum and, in this upcoming poll, voters will be asked whether they support a government proposal to remove the four-year wait from the constitution. If passed, parliament will legislate on the future time period needed before couples can apply for a divorce.
Voters will also be asked if they want to remove a law that doesn't recognize foreign divorces, a provision that prohibits people who divorced outside Ireland from remarrying.
Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan said in March that "complex questions of social policy are best dealt with through detailed legislation in the Oireachtas (parliament) rather than within the confines of our Constitution."
Flanagan added that the government intends to reduce the living apart period to two years so that both parties can "move forward with their lives within a reasonable timeframe."
Forty-year-old Rossney told CNN that the long wait has fueled a hostile environment that has been exploited by the legal system, and that the proceedings -- and relationship with his ex -- could have been more positive if the mandatory period wasn't so drawn out.
"I don't think we would have hit such a low point if things hadn't dragged on so long," he said. "We knew we had a protracted war ahead of us."
Rossney, a proud father of two, said that he believes that the current law means that legal teams don't have "any incentives to stop fighting until the money is gone." He said that Ireland's family court "is not fit for purpose" as "like any other court, it is ... a fight until one party wins and the other loses."
Many in the process of div