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Law Society makes recommendations to Government on Family Law Courts Bill

By July 19, 2023June 26th, 2024No Comments

Our Managing Partner Brendan Dillon is a member of the Law Society’s Family and Child Law Committee which has been busy reviewing the Family Courts Bill 2022 which has been issued by the Government as an attempt to revolutionise the manner in which Family Law is conducted in this county. It proposes a setting up of three new Family Court Divisions, namely Family High Court, Family Circuit Court, and Family District Court. While many of the provisions  of the bill are laudable, there are many shortcomings in the Bill which the Law Society has sought to address such as:

  1. Giving jurisdiction to the District Court for contentious judicial separation/divorce. The Family Law Committee is not in favour of this proposal because of the enormous drain on current resources and believes that the district court will be overwhelmed by the additional work, would not be able to cope, and this would result in further delays for participants in Judicial Separation/Divorce cases.
  2. The Law society believes there should be consideration for Guardian Ad Litem to ascertain the views of the child in Family Law proceedings and that the report would be prepared in an independent and child-focused manner. The society believes that hearing the voice of the child should be an automatic requirement in all proceedings. It goes on to recommend that a checklist of factors in assessing the best interest of the child, similar to those set out in the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964, should be introduced into the Bill to provide greater clarity for all parties.
  3. In addition to mediation, other non-contentious mechanisms for resolving family law disputes such as collaborative law, lawyer assisted settlements and arbitration should be encouraged.
  4. A system of regulation of Mediation should be introduced. The Law Society believes that alternative dispute resolution i.e., to avoid cases going to court should be actively encouraged by all parties.
  5. Where parties are not in compliance with case management directions by the court there should be cost orders.
  6. Appropriate facilities should be provided in all court buildings for all participants.
  7. There is appears to be a restriction on issuing proceedings in the High Court on the basis that parties would have to demonstrate that they have a ‘ special reason to do so’, and the Law Society does not believe that there should be a restriction that should be applied in a stringent manner.
  8. The Law Society would welcome the availability of electric filing of documentation to streamline the processes.#
  9. The Law Society welcomes the proposal that there be specific training for Family Law judged.
  10. The Law Society welcomes the setting up of the Faily Law Rules committee.

It is very clear that while the current drat of the Courts Bill is a important start in the development of a world-class Family Law system, the bill has many defects and it is important that these are addressed so that when enacted, the new Family Law Courts Act will be fit for purpose and address in as comprehensive and practical a fashion the real needs of participants in Family Law proceedings and in particular, the children of a broken relationship.

If you require advice on any family law matter please do not hesitate to contact Brendan Dillon or Aoife Cathcart on 012960666