Hearing of cases - the 'in camera' rule
Family law cases are heard in private (in camera) to protect the privacy of the family. Only officers of the court, the parties to the case and their legal representatives, witnesses and such other people as the judge allows will be in the courtroom while the case is being heard.
Section 40 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act, 2004 allows solicitors, barristers, and certain other categories of people approved by the Minister for Justice and Equality to attend family law cases and publish reports. Part 2 (sections 3 to 12) of the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2013 allows bona fide representatives of the Press attend family law cases (subject to the right of the judge to exclude any such representatives) and to publish reports. The publication of reports of family law cases is allowed under these Acts on the strict condition that no names, addresses or any other details which might identify the parties can be used.
Reports of cases provide family law practitioners, other professionals and the public with information about what happens in the family law courts. For reports of cases published as part of a Courts Service pilot project between 2007 and 2009 read 'Family Law Matters'.
The role of court staff
Court staff process court papers (that is issue them and ensure that they are in the correct format for submission to the court) and prepare lists for court. They will identify court forms for you and provide you with information about the practice and procedure of the courts. They are not legal advisers. They cannot tell you what to say in court, what to put in your forms, complete your forms or recommend lawyers.
Employing a solicitor
You are entitled to represent yourself in the family law courts if you wish. You are not obliged to get a solicitor. However, law is complicated and you may find that you are at a disadvantage if your spouse is represented and you are not. It is usually sensible to get legal advice before taking steps in any legal proceedings and it may cost you less in the end. If you represent yourself you must prepare your own case and all the necessary documents.
If you cannot afford to employ a solicitor, you may be entitled to legal aid. For more information about legal aid, contact the Legal Aid Board (www.legalaidboard.ie), Free Legal Advice Centres (www.flac.ie) or Citizens Information (www.citizensinformation.ie).
Links to other useful organisations
There is a large body of legislation relevant to the area of family law. We have identified some of the most commonly used legislation for your information and assistance. It is not a comprehensive list and is not intended as legal advice. If you require legal advice please consult a solicitor.
To make an application to the family law courts you must lodge certain forms in the court office. The forms are part of the Rules of Court. We have identified the most frequently used forms for your information. You must decide what information you want to include on the forms. Staff cannot tell you how to complete them. If you need assistance you should contact a solicitor.
Rules of Court set out the procedures to be followed when bringing proceedings before the courts. There are separate rules for the District Court, the Circuit Court and the Superior Courts (that is the High Court and Supreme Court). They are available on this website in Court Rules. We also include amendments to the rules and court forms.
You do not have to pay court fees in family law proceedings.