Department of Justice finalising Family Courts proposals

Kevin Humphreys
Kevin Humphreys

Legislation to establish new Family Courts as divisions of Ireland’s existing District, Circuit and High Court structures will be introduced before the general election, the Department of Justice has indicated.

Government minister Kevin Humphreys, speaking in response to a senator’s question, said the Department is “currently finalising proposals for future legislation” based on “ongoing consultations with interested parties”.

Mr Humphreys reaffirmed the Government’s position that a referendum is not necessary in order to establish the proposed Family Courts, and outlined their principle features.

He explained: “A District Family Court, a Circuit Family Court and a Family High Court will be established as divisions of the existing District, Circuit and High Court structures. New District Family Court districts and new Circuit Family Court circuits will be established for this purpose.

“It is envisaged that judges will be appointed fulltime to the District Family Court and the Circuit Family Court. In the case of the Family High Court, it is anticipated that there would not be sufficient case loads to warrant the appointment of judges full time to family law matters. Therefore judges of the Family High Court will also be able to hear other cases.

“The judges appointed to the Family Courts will be selected on the basis of their training or experience in dealing with family law matters.”

The new legislation will include a set of guiding principles underlining the importance of alternative resolution methods such as mediation, which provide an opportunity for a “less adversarial, less stressful and less costly” resolution of disputes.

Mr Humphreys added: “The Minister intends to bring the proposals to establish the new Family Court to Government as soon as they are finalised.”

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