24 October 2019
In responding to today’s Report on Family Law Reform by the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality, Council of The Bar of Ireland reiterates support for measures that improve the expedient resolution of family law proceedings arising from relationship and marital breakdown which are in the interests of children and all parties to the proceedings.
“A more effective and efficient administrative organisation of the court structure and improvement in court facilities will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the management of family law applications and lead to reductions in delays and cost” said Micheál P O’Higgins SC, Chairman, Council of The Bar of Ireland, “While the current system which facilities family law proceedings to be conducted as part of the existing court structure in Ireland works reasonably well in Dublin where there are dedicated family law courts, outside of Dublin, the number of days allocated to family law sittings can be quite limited which results in system clogging and long delays. The recommendation of the committee to establish a dedicated and integrated family court within existing court structures and, critically, to ensure the necessary resources and supports for its implementation is welcomed and we join the Committee’s calls on Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan TD to bring forward the required legislation as a matter of priority”’
In welcoming the report Seán O’hUallacháin SC, a barrister specialising in Family Law said “While a dedicated family law division is to be welcomed it will not provide the required efficiencies without appropriate resources. Current locations being used for family law proceedings are totally unsuitable; inconsistent facilities in court venues and lack of adequate consultation rooms directly impacts on the manner in which family law proceedings are conducted. The failure to provide separate waiting areas or family friendly spaces in court venues can significantly increase avoidable stress and anxiety which can result in volatility in the course of family law litigation”
“While we welcome the recommendation of the committee to conduct a thorough review of the current family court infrastructure, it is the view of the Council that the construction of dedicated family law facilities at Hammond Lane is absolutely necessary and will go a long way towards addressing deficiencies in the current family law system. We welcome the recommendation of the committee that the necessary funding be allocated to ensure the construction of a purpose-built family law complex is commenced as a matter of urgency”, he concluded
Rachel Baldwin BL, Chair of the Civil State Bar Committee said “A properly functioning civil legal aid system is essential in providing access to justice. As a practitioner dealing daily with vulnerable clients of the family law system, it is clear that the Legal Aid Board requires significant additional resources if a properly functioning civil legal aid system is to be provided and the call by the committee for a full review of the legal aid scheme is timely. Despite the best efforts of practitioners instructed by the Legal Aid Board, there are regularly lengthy delays where either or both parties are represented by the Legal Aid Board, adding to delays and costs and leading to additional stress to clients”.
“Council of The Bar of Ireland commends the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality for its comprehensive report which highlights the many challenges facing family law clients and their advocates. The considered approach and recommendations on a range of relevant issues including voice of the child, transparency, alternative dispute resolution and better public education on the family law system demonstrates a most thorough approach which, if realized, will undoubtedly significantly improve access to justice for family court users” concluded Chairman Micheál P O’Higgins SC.
To read the Report in full please click here.