The purpose of the Family Courts Bill is to establish a dedicated family court in order to improve levels of judicial expertise and training in family law matters and streamline family law proceedings, thereby making them more user-friendly and less costly.
The bill will establish a District Family Court, a Circuit Family Court and a Family High Court as divisions within the current court structures, each dealing with family-law matters as appropriate to its jurisdiction.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice told the Irish Legal News, “Family law reform is a priority for the minister of justice and is a major element of the Justice Plan 2022.
“The bill will be an important element of the family justice strategy which the Family Justice Oversight Group is currently developing following consultation with the public, stakeholders and with children in particular. Work is currently ongoing on the drafting of the bill, with a view to its publication as soon as possible in 2022.”
The Bill was originally planned to be drafted by the end of March 2022 as part of the Justice Plan 2022. Justice minister Helen McEntee recently launched the Justice Plan 2022 with 159 actions, including reform of professional legal education, with independent oversight and lower barriers to becoming a solicitor or barrister.
Proposed reforms of professional legal education will be finalised so as to expand and enhance access to the legal profession, introducing “independent oversight and quality assurance”, the plan says.
“Work will also progress to reform the courts system and increase efficiency, while creating a family-courts system that is less adversarial, and more sensitive to the needs of families,” said justice minister Helen McEntee.
A family justice strategy and action plan “to provide for a user friendly and accessible family court system” and a review of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964 were also due to be published in Q1 under Justice Plan 2022.
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