A new service aimed at helping people to better understand the different elements of family law has been launched by the Chief Justice Donal O’Donnell and the Minister for Justice Simon Harris.
The Courts Service says that people can now access, on its website, family-law information that uses plain language and is displayed in a user-friendly way.
The courts’ body says that the information gives people the wording to discuss legal processes, applications, and resolutions options with legal practitioners and professionals, as well as staff in the Courts Service.
The newly developed hub provides information across all family-law court topics, including: divorce and separation, maintenance, domestic violence, making arrangements for children, and other family-law matters. There is also information on what to expect in court, and how to prepare.
New 360 Virtual Tours, also launched yesterday (30 March), will allow people to experience the look and feel of courts in advance.
The tours cover four buildings:
- The Four Courts, Inns Quay, Dublin,
- Áras Uí Dhálaigh, Inns Quay, Dublin,
- Criminal Courts of Justice, Parkgate Street, Dublin, and
- Dublin District Family Law, Dolphin House, East Essex Street, Dublin.
The tours demonstrate what to expect, both inside and outside the courts’ buildings.
The Courts Service believes that this can reduce anxiety for many court visitors, as they will be better prepared to engage in the process before arriving at court.
“Ultimately, with the Courts Service designing these information points, ‘with users for users’, we believe that this will lead to a better experience for people and their families, as well as for Courts Service staff, judiciary, and practitioners with whom they engage throughout the process,” said the Chief Justice.
“Improved information helps those trying to exercise their rights through the system, by reducing anxiety [about] the process,” he continued.
“The virtual tours, which were funded thanks to the Public Service Innovation Fund, likewise lift a cloud of unfamiliarity for those needing to attend court venues,” the Chief Justice said.
Minister Harris described the new services as a positive example of the potential of the Courts Service modernisation programme to deliver an improved, and more modern, operating model designed around the court user.
“They have been developed with a user-first mentality, and carefully crafted based on user feedback, to address the obstacles users have previously experienced when engaging with the courts and court processes,” he said.
Emer Darcy (Courts Service), who headed up this initiative, said that the organisation wanted the system to be focused on best outcomes, and to empower people, families and children when having to attend court.
“When we asked people what needed to change, it was no surprise that information in plain language was top of the list. People asked for help to understand both the court experience and the court process,” she stated.
The new service includes ‘eligibility checkers’, and step-by-step guides for the main court application types, including: domestic violence, maintenance, arrangements for children (guardianship, access and custody), and divorce.
For those who have received court papers, there is information on how to respond.
There is also information on how to appeal a court order.
The service also provides information about legal advice and representation, mediation, and signposting to a wide range of support services.