There is a lot of confusion about how Family Law cases will proceed because of Coronavirus court delays. The Courts Service issued a general update on its arrangements on 16th March and this blog will address some of these changes. However, this is an evolving situation and it is advisable to check with your solicitor or to check local courts notices.
Our focus in this blog will be on private family law, rather than public law such as care orders. However, the key points are as follows:
District Court and Coronovirus Delays
The District Court deals with Access and Custody, Guardianship, Maintenance and the Domestic Violence Act. All non-urgent matters will be adjourned to a date after 20th April. Solicitors will be notified of the new dates in due course. Anyone representing themselves will be notified directly.
The main cases which qualify as ‘urgent matters’ are matters under the Domestic Violence Act. This includes fresh applications for Protection Orders or Interim Barring Orders. Any existing Protection Orders will be extended to an adjourned date. However, Interim Barring Orders can only be in place for a max of 9 days. So, these interim orders will be dealt with urgently.
Please note that all interim orders will continue in the intervening period.
If your situation is NOT a domestic violence matter, you should consult your solicitor for advice on whether it would qualify as urgent.
No one should attend court, unless they are advised by their solicitor or by the court to attend. If a matter must proceed, then all health and safety measures will be put in place for those attending.
Circuit Court and Coronavirus Delays
In terms of family law, the Circuit Court deals mainly with separation and divorce matters. All non-urgent matters in the Circuit Court are also being adjourned to a date after 20th April. The same criteria for urgent and non-urgent matters apply as for the District Court. This includes separation and divorce proceedings.
The court office has already put in place some limited mechanisms for email communication, and filing of applications. There is also trojan work underway by members of the Law Society Family Law Committee, the Bar Council, and the Family Lawyers Association. They are engaging with the Courts service to look at ways to keep the work moving during this crisis. But they must do so in a way which provides safety for families from a health and a legal perspective.
You can see the full Courts Service statement on COVID-19 arrangements here.
Dealing With Your Solicitor
How you liaise with your solicitor may also be affected by the coronavirus crisis. In daily practice, settlement meetings and face to face consultations have been deferred or cancelled. Most solicitors are working remotely, while still working to move matters on in the most productive way.
If you have any queries about your family law case, please call Alan Finnerty on 01 637 6200. Or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org