A separation is not only emotionally traumatic for a couple, it can be financially traumatic, particularly when the borrowers share a mortgage.

Analysis by the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland found that 10% of all mortgage arrears cases involve borrowers who have separated.

It is a difficult issue for the people involved and it is a tricky issue for banks to help resolve.

This issue was first brought to the BPFI by Michael McGrath, Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on finance, who asked the federation to conduct some research across its members to find out the scale of the problem.

The issue was bigger than first realised.

Brian Hayes, chief executive of the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland, said, "in a circumstance where you have one co-operating individual who wants to come to a deal with the bank on mortgage arrears, and the other party to the mortgage is not to be seen or doesn't engage, that's a real issue for the banks".

"We have to deal with this issue because it is complex. If you look at the legal position, if you take out a mortgage as a couple, you are jointly liable for the outstanding debt," he said.

"What happens if someone walks away? We do need some legal certainty around this issue."

He said ultimately, the borrower who is engaging with the bank is in danger of losing their home when the matter comes before the courts.

He said the banks want to engage with public policy makers to find a solution to this, whether that is through a tweaking of the regulation that the Central Bank sets out between lenders and borrowers; whether it's around insolvency legislation, or whether it's around mediation services.

"The Irish banks have provided solutions for over a 110,000 borrowers in difficulty. 87% of those cases are now functioning in terms of mortgage repayments. We want to ensure that we solve this problem for people but you cannot do that unless you engage with people, and that's the crucial message," Mr Hayes said.

The advice to people in mortgages arrears is to engage with banks, and use the services of the Money Advice and Budgetary Service which the Irish banks have a framework agreement with.