Thursday, July 19, 2012

Doherty welcomes moves to establish separate Family Court

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Thursday) welcomed moves by the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter TD, aimed at establishing a separate Family Court structure. Earlier this week, Minister Shatter announced that the Government has approved in principle a number of major reforms for our courts system, which will require a Constitutional Referendum.

“Reform of the family courts system is a commitment under the Programme for Government, and I believe it is an essential step in making our legal system a less intimidating and more welcoming environment for families in personal difficulties.

“Under the current system, family law cases generally come before the District Court in the first instance. Family cases are usually left until the end of the court list, to give those concerned as much privacy as possible. But as a result, families can be left waiting in the courthouse as prisoners and other criminals are ushered in and out.

“A courtroom is a very intimidating environment under any circumstance. Combine this with the potential emotions and stresses associated with family law cases, and the entire experience can be completely overwhelming. We should remember that children are at the centre of all family law cases; every effort should be made to ensure we provide a suitable environment in which to make decisions about their welfare.

“Under a reformed structure, I would envisage entirely separate family courts, where just the parties involved, the judge and the court clerk are present. Judges with a specialisation in family law cases could preside over all proceedings, ensuring a level of compassion and understanding.

“This is a very important reform as we continue to modernise our court system to reflect the realities of society. I fully support the Minister in this initiative and I hope the reforms can be progressed without delay to the benefit of everyone involved.”

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