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Solicitors concerned over proposed laws on divorces

Solicitors and barristers who work in family law have expressed concern about proposed new legislation which would see most divorce and separation cases dealt with in the district court.

A survey conducted by the Bar of Ireland, representing barristers and the Family Lawyers Association, made up of solicitors and barristers who practice in the area, has found that the vast majority believe this would have a negative impact on the justice system and a negative outcome for the people involved while having little effect on costs.

The lawyers say the reorganisation of jurisdiction for hearing family law cases proposed by the Family Courts Bill 2022, is not in the best interests of families who have to engage with the family justice system and will create a two-tier system.

More than 200 of the 241 practitioners who responded to the survey agreed that a restriction on family law proceedings being commenced in the High Court without a special reason to do so, was not necessary and would negatively impact on the development of case law.

They say the district court is already overburdened, with not enough time to hear cases, no proper facilities and delays in the provision of expert reports.

Findings show that 232 of those who responded said they did not believe the district court was an appropriate venue for judicial separation, divorce and cohabitation proceedings.

Only 10% of those who responded said they believed the change would improve costs in family law, with 46% saying there would be no change in costs and 44% believing there would be a negative impact on costs.

The lawyers say more judges, better facilities, enhanced case management and additional resources are needed and they say the Department of Justice should engage with those working in family law to identify the areas in need of change.

The lawyers are highlighting their concerns at a meeting in Dublin today.

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