Government urged to establish dedicated Family Court
The final report from the four-year Child Care Law Reporting Project (CCLR) has urged the Government to move forward with promises to establish a dedicated family court in Ireland.
The major report, produced by a dedicated team of researchers examining child care proceedings in Ireland’s District Courts, was launched yesterday by CCLR director Carol Coulter and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Susan Denham.
Speaking after the launch, Dr Coulter said: “Our findings underline once again the urgent need for a dedicated family court, which would hear both private and public family law, setting aside dedicated days for child care cases.”
The report states that “over-crowded lists outside Dublin” are preventing child care cases from receiving the attention they deserve, while physically crowded waiting rooms in courthouses are undermining “the dignity of the parties”.
The establishment of a dedicated Family Court to hear poth public and private family law, with provision of appropriate waiting and meeting facilities in a number of dedicated courthouses, is identified as “a matter of urgency”.
In the meantime, the report recommends “prioritising family law, and especially child care cases, in the allocation of resources in the District Courts” and ensuring that all cases likely to be contested are heard by a judge who can set aside the required number of days to hear them.
In some cases, this will require the use of a “moveable judge”, and the report calls on the Courts Service of Ireland to ensure that these judges are facilitated in prioritising these cases.
The report suggests the Child Care Act 2011, which provides statutory underpinning for Special Care Orders but has not yet been commenced, could be repealed and the Child Care Act 1991 amended to ensure that a policy of “one child, one judge” applies and all child care orders are dealt with under a single jurisdiction.
It says it is “difficult to see” why Special Care Orders under the 2011 Act“are so much more serious that they can only be heard in the High Court”.
It also recommends that any review of the 1991 Act should include “a review of existing practice and wide consultation with social work and child law experts and legal practitioners”.