The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said that she hopes to have the Family Court Bill ready in early 2022, and to progress it through the Oireachtas next year.
“We are being ambitious. I am being ambitious. I know that. But this needs to be done. It’s long overdue," the minister told the Law Society’s Family and Child Law Conference.
The Government approved the drafting of such a bill in September last year, when the general scheme was published.
Dedicated Family Court
Earlier this week, the Child Care Law Reporting Project (CCLRP) called for the legislation to be prioritised.
“We are strongly supporting the establishment of a family-court structure as soon as possible,” CCLRP director Dr Carol Coulter said, as the group launched its latest analysis of cases involving children, which is based on case reports from Irish courts.
The bill would provide for the establishment of a District Family Court, a Circuit Family Court, and a Family High Court as divisions within existing court structures.
Minister McEntee has previously said that the changes will lead to the development of a more efficient and user-friendly family-court system, which will include “sensible, comprehensive and sensitive” procedures, particularly for vulnerable families.
The bill, a commitment to which was included in the Programme for Government, would create a new dedicated Family Court within the existing court structure, and is aimed at allowing court procedures to support a less adversarial resolution of disputes.