The Domestic Violence Act, 2018 commenced in full on 1 January 2019 and substantively updated and extended the 1996 Domestic Violence Act.
Consequent changes to the District Court Rules came into force on 15 March last year while changes to the Circuit Court Rules came into force on 12August.
Keith Walsh is the author of Divorce and Judicial Separation in the Circuit Court (Bloomsbury Professional, 2019).
He commented: “These new rules contain the procedural framework and precedents which guide practitioners and lay litigants when bringing applications to Court and are part of the essential practice and procedure of the Domestic Violence Act, 2018.
“The symbolic importance of ensuring that the Circuit Court Rules on domestic violence are finally introduced illustrates the emphasis being put on the protection of victims of domestic violence by Minister McEntee and her Department.
“This means that it is now much more straightforward for solicitors to bring applications under the Domestic Violence Act in the Circuit Court for their clients.
Keith Walsh said that, in reality, almost all applications for relief under the Domestic Violence Act will be brought in the District Court in practice but some will continue to be brought in the Circuit Court.
The 2019 Courts Service annual report, published in July, shows 20,501 applications were made, under the 2018 Act, in the District Court.
Circuit Court statistics relate to outcomes and show only 38 orders were made in the Circuit Family Court.
“The Domestic Violence Act 2018 was a very innovative and much needed source of assistance for victims of domestic violence,” Keith Walsh said.
“It introduced a new criminal offence of coercive control as well as a new remedy for victims of domestic violence called an emergency barring order. “
Other innovations included providing a check list of factors that courts must consider when dealing with applications for domestic violence orders. Courts were also required to give reasons for decisions under the Act.
“The new Circuit Court Rules provide welcome clarity,” Keith Walsh concluded.