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FAMILY LAW - Homepage

General

Access

Judicial separation

Domestic violence

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Court procedure 

The documents required for a court application and the procedure to be followed in court depend on the nature of the application and the court to which the application is made. The following gives some basic information about the procedure in the District Court and High Court. Information about the Circuit Court is available in the judicial separation and divorce sections. 

The District Court

Proceedings in the District Court are usually commenced by the issue of a summons or notice of application. A summons must give the name and address of the person making the application (the applicant) and the name and address of the person against whom the application is being made (the respondent). The nature of the applicant's claim and the grounds for making the claim must be set out in the summons. It also gives details of the location, date and time of the court where the summons will be heard. The summons is dated and signed by the judge or District Court clerk and must be lodged in the District Court office.

A summons is considered to be issued for service when it has been completed, signed, and a copy has been sent by registered prepaid post to the respondent. Particular rules apply if you want to serve documents in another country.

A summons must be served on the respondent at least fourteen days or, where service is by registered prepaid post, at least twenty-one days, before the date of the court hearing. After service, the original of every summons, together with a statutory declaration as to service, is lodged with the District Court clerk at least four days before the date of the court hearing. These time limits may vary depending on the nature of the application. For certainty you should consult the District Court Rules. 

A notice of application must usually be in a form set out in the District Court Rules (for example applications for guardianship, custody, access). Notices are lodged in the District Court office and served on the respondent in the same way as summonses. As with summonses, a statutory declaration as to service must be lodged with the District Court clerk before the date of the hearing.

The High Court

Most proceedings in the High Court are commenced by issuing a family law summons in the High Court Central Office. The original summons is retained in the Central Office and a copy returned to the person making the application (the applicant) for service on the person against whom the proceedings are being taken (the respondent). Particular rules apply if you want to serve a summons (and other documents) in another country.

The procedures to be followed in High Court family law proceedings following the issue of a summons are set out in a High Court Family Practice Direction (HC51). 

Orders of the High Court are drawn up by court registrars and filed on the court file. Copies can be requested from the Central Office.

Written judgments of the High Court in family cases are available in the judgments section of this website. Names and details are removed to ensure privacy.

Appeals

If you are dissatisfied with a decision of a court you can appeal to a higher court.

Note that unless the court grants a stay, the decision or ruling remains in force until and unless it is changed by the higher court.

District Court to Circuit Court

You can appeal a decision of the District Court to the Circuit Court within fourteen days of the date of the decision. The Circuit Court will conduct a full re-hearing but once a decision is given there is no further right of appeal (except on a point of law).

County Registrar to Circuit Court

If you are appealing a decision or direction of a county registrar you must do so within 10 days of the date of the direction or 10 days of the perfecting (signing) of the county registrar's order. The notice of appeal must be served on the other party and filed in court together with an affidavitof service within the time specified. Service can be by personal service or by registered prepaid post. The matter will then be reviewed by the Circuit Court judge.

Circuit Court to High Court

If your case started in the Circuit Court you can appeal the Circuit Court decision to the High Court. The High Court will conduct a full re-hearing but once a decision is given there is no further right of appeal (save on a point of law).

In cases where there was no oral evidence in the Circuit Court and in all Dublin Circuit Court cases the appeal will be to the High Court sitting in Dublin.  The notice of appeal and an affidavit of service is filed in the High Court Central Office within 10 days of the making of the order by the Circuit Court judge.

In cases where there was oral evidence in the Circuit Court the appeal is to the High Court sitting on Circuit.  The notice of appeal and an affidavit of service is filed in the relevant Circuit Court office within 10 days of the making of the order by the Circuit Court judge.

The litigant must ensure that the correct appeal venue is chosen and the Superior Court Rules followed. The Master of the High Court has power to extend the time to appeal regardless of the venue for the appeal.

High Court to Supreme Court

If your case started in the High Court you can appeal to the Supreme Court. The notice of appeal must be served on the other side within twenty-one days of the date of perfection (signing) of the High Court order and filed in the Supreme Court office together with an attested copy of the High Court order (that is a copy certified by the High Court office as being a true copy) within seven days of service. Once the appeal has been lodged, you will then need to prepare and lodge books of appeal.

Re-entering

Sometimes a court will allow a case (or an application in a case) to be brought back before the court to have outstanding matters dealt with. This is known as 're-entering'. Proceedings can be re-entered by issuing a notice of re-entry to the appropriate court.

Proceeding after twelve months

Where no step has been taken in a case for twelve months or more since the last step, the party intending to proceed may have to give every other party notice in writing of their intention to proceed.  You should check with the court office.

Page updated: 18 March 2014