The Family Courts Bill 2022 provides for the establishment of a Family High Court, Family Circuit Court and Family District Court as divisions within the existing court structures.

The stated aim is the development of a more efficient and user-friendly Family Court system. It hopes to achieve a system that puts families at the centre of its activities, facilitate access to specialist supports and encourages the use of appropriate dispute resolution in family law proceedings.

The draft Family Courts Bill (2022) is currently before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Bill proposes that most Divorce, Judicial Separation and Co-habitation proceedings be reassigned to the District Court.

In the main these changes are welcomed, though there are some concerns. The Bar of Ireland is calling for urgent amendments to the draft Family Courts Bill to avoid the creation of a two-tier family justice system, and to ensure there is fairness for all families before the courts.

The Chair of the Council of The Bar of Ireland, Sara Phelan SC, says, “The rationale for this proposed reassignment is not clear. The Bar of Ireland is not aware of any concerns expressed by those involved in the family justice system about the allocation of jurisdiction between courts. This seems to be a solution in search of a problem.

“Of primary concern to us is that the approach that is currently proposed in the Bill will result in the creation of a two-tier family justice system. Not only is it not fair, but it will also only add to what is an already over-burdened District Court, often described as the ‘A&E’ of the courts system.

“We are calling on Government to revisit this aspect of the Bill urgently, and to afford the same fairness to all families and those in the midst of relationship breakdown.”

This topic also came up in a recent Family and Child Law webinar. The moderator of the annual webinar was Peter Doyle, who is chair of the Law Society’s Child and Family Law Committee. He encouraged attendees to review and provide feedback to the committee on the Family Courts Bill 2022.

During the webinar, Keith Walsh (principal, Keith Walsh Solicitors) summed up the problem as he saw it with the Family Courts Bill 2022 being implemented as it stands: “There is a serious risk that the transfer of cases from the Circuit Court to an already over-busy District Court will lead, not just to a delay for judicial separation and divorce cases, but also to delays in other civil and family-law areas, such as domestic violence, guardianship, custody and access cases, as well as maintenance and childcare cases,” he warned.

NB – This is a guide for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have an issue requiring legal advice, please contact any of the team at Nolan Farrell & Goff LLP, whose numbers can be found on our website, or email