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New Family Courts Bill published December 2022

New Family Courts Bill published December 2022

By Aidan Reynolds & Keith Walsh
Tuesday, 6th December 2022

Family Courts Bill published December 2022 

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 aim is the development of a more efficient and user-friendly family court system; a system that puts families at the centre of its activities, facilitates access to specialist supports and encourages the use of appropriate dispute resolution in family law proceedings.

A welcome set of guiding principles are set out to be followed by all those involved in the family courts including: ensuring the importance of the welfare of children involved in the proceedings or likely to be affected by their outcome, encouraging alternatives to litigation, promoting good case management practice, ensuring that proceedings are conducted as far as possible in a user-friendly manner and where feasible minimising the cost of the proceedings.

The Bill proposes the establishment of a separate division of courts to be known as the Family Courts being District, Circuit and High Courts with each jurisdiction having a principal family law Judge and separate dedicated family law judges.

While the Bill is very welcome as it substantially reforms the existing family court system, unfortunately it contains a fatal flaw at its centre which threatens to corrupt the good intentions of the rest of the Bill if left unchanged. This first element of this flaw is the proposal to increase the jurisdiction of the District Court to €1 million and to permit the District court to deal with judicial separation, divorce, civil partnership, cohabitant cases where the market value of the property involved is less than €1 million.