Law Society welcomes Oireachtas report on overhaul of family law system

Calls for immediate implementation of recommendations on reform of family law system.

The Law Society of Ireland welcomes the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality’s call for major overhaul of the family law system, which recognises many of the reforms the Society has sought in recent years.

These include the modernisation of the physical infrastructure of family law courts, the creation of a specialist division of family courts and judges, and the promotion of alternative dispute resolution in family law cases.

Speaking after the publication of the Report on Reform of the Family Law System, chair of the Law Society’s Family and Child Law Committee Keith Walsh said the family law system is in crisis and urged that the reports recommended reforms be implemented with immediate action.

“This report sets out starkly the current state of crisis in the family law system,” said Mr Walsh. “Families must work within an under-resourced, over stretched family law system which is not fit for purpose. The Government must act swiftly to implement the practical and important reforms recommended.”

“The report highlights the need for adequate resources to be devoted to family law, the need for a dedicated and integrated family law court system within the existing system and the failure of the state to comply with Article 42A – to ascertain the voice of the child,” explained Mr Walsh.

Specific recommendations and their impacts

Mr Walsh welcomes the report’s emphasis on the alternative dispute resolution (ADR), noting ADR has a positive impact on both the people involved in family law cases and the system as a whole.

“Contributors to this report agreed that we need a new court structure for family law cases, which includes an integrated approach to alternative dispute resolution,” said Mr Walsh.

“Active intervention in family law cases by judges, with an emphasis on resolution and alternative dispute resolution approaches, could result in significant savings in time and resources for all parties,” he explained.

Mr Walsh further notes that judges would ideally also be trained mediators, collaborative lawyers or arbitrators. “The housing of ancillary services, such as legal aid and mediation services, within family court buildings is another important recommendation.”

Future of family law

“This report, together with the Law Society’s Divorce in Ireland: The Case for Reform, which was written by Dr. Geoffrey Shannon and published earlier this year, now provide a blueprint for how family law should work in this jurisdiction,” he said. 

“It is essential this report is put to use and does not remain on a shelf like so many other reports on the reform of family law since the Law Reform Commission’s Report on Family Courts in 1996.”

“Every day that goes by where parents and children are caught up in a system that is unfit for purpose is a day wasted and we need reform to family law immediately,” Mr Walsh concluded.

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