Family law reforms could lead to longer cases

Landmark reforms designed to “modernise family law” in Ireland may cause some cases to take significantly longer, The Irish Times reports.

A spokesperson for the Courts Service of Ireland told the newspaper: “There will be more inquiries which courts have to make and more evidence to be gathered - including hearing the voice of the child.”

A key provision in the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 places a child’s best interests as the paramount consideration for court proceedings on guardianship, custody or access.

This includes giving regard to the views of the child concerned, and section 31 (6) (a) of the legislation obliges the court to “facilitate the free expression by the child of those views”.

Sections 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12 and 13 of the legislation were commenced by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald this week.

They relate primarily to guardianship, custody, access and maintenance.

The Courts Service spokesperson said: “Therefore, the instances of judges asking for children to come to court so that they may hear from them directly is likely to increase.”

Tanya Ward, chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, has called for further reform of the family law courts to ensure judges have the necessary skills and resources to implement the new law.

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