Blog by our Family Law expert, Deirdre Burke:
I’ve spent my life as a parent and a solicitor working to support and empower Children, Families and Communities, and promoting Justice. I’ve worked for over 20 years in Family and Child Law. So, I see first-hand on a daily basis, the critical changes which we need to make in our Family Law system.
Some of the key changes I would encourage to ease the process for families are:
Increased Promotion of ADR in Family Law
Conflict in relationship breakdown benefits no-one, least of all the couple involved, or their children. Our system is by far too adversarial and does not provide enough alternatives to court for families in crisis. Alternative Dispute Resolution methods should be more accessible and available to people to avoid court. These can take the form of Mediation or Collaborative Law. The public should be informed more and educated more about the benefits of using ADR. It usually takes less time, and costs far less than protracted proceedings. In addition, agreements are more likely to last without complication or need to enforce.
Resources for the Family Law System
Our court system needs more investment to ensure that court waiting times for families are reduced. This is particularly acute in rural areas, where family District Courts often only sit once per month. Delays in the processing of cases impacts negatively on families and children.
Training of judges and all court staff is essential to fully understand the dynamics of family law, and marital breakdown. Families are presenting to court staff at their most vulnerable. Staff and judges often lack the skills to address this properly. Dedicated Family Law Courts with dedicated Family Law Judges would improve outcomes for families and for children caught in conflict. They would also ensure greater consistency of decision making.
As part of the review of the overall family law system, we need to make counsellors, mediators, psychotherapists and child specialists available to families in crisis, within the system itself.
To find out more about Alternative Dispute Resolution or any of the issues in this blog, please call Deirdre Burke on 01 637 6200 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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