Family Law Matters
Children on the edge
The Courts Service today launches its second report on family law proceedings, 'Family Law Matters'. This is part a series of reports - which are a Courts Service initiative to shine a light on family law courts.
The report provides information under four headings; Reports, Statistics, Opinion and Judgments. It includes an excerpt from a paper by Judge Conal Gibbons dealing with the reasons children are taken into care and by the Pensions Ombudsman Paul Kenny dealing with the issue of pension adjustment orders.
Children in care
The paper by Judge Gibbons shows that of the children in care in Ireland 43% are as a result of a court care order are 57% voluntary placements.
It goes on to show that the major reasons children are in care are: neglect 1,386; physical abuse, 290; sexual abuse, 159; emotional abuse, 147; emotional and behavioural problems, 134; mental health problems / intellectual disability, 19; abusing drugs / alcohol, 9; physical illness/ disability, 8; pregnancy, 7; involved in crime, 4; other, 146. The figures also show that of the 5,060 children in care in Ireland only 442 are in residential care with the vast majority being in some form of foster care and with 32 being cared for at home under supervision.
The report includes;
» A supervision order granted for a child who was taken out of the country by its foreign national father for a month and who returned to the country with the father and a woman using the child's mothers passport wrongly
» Supervision order granted over a child whose attendance at school was causing concern as was the parents use of cannabis - family support services had a difficult time with the family in terms of working on domestic budgeting and had not yet broached the subject of food preparation
» Judge rejects application to commit to prison - for violating a court order - a recovering heroin addict and abuser of alcohol who turned up at her mother's house drunk - where her children are being cared for having being placed there by the HSE
» Widowed father rejects psychotherapy advice and Judge refuses to order it
» Judge orders that an after care plan is drawn up for a teenager so as the HSE can support her in her plans to studylaw and business at university
Custody and access
» The variety of different solutions the courts come up with in finding outcomes and futures relating to custody and access to children in separation and divorce cases.
» Judge Bryan Mc Mahon hears and decides a divorce case where there existed a cooperation in terms of access worked out in 'an admirable fashion', but where the disability of the eldest child complicated the future of the family home.
» Man who paid no support for 'probably 17 years' only to receive €30,000 as his share of the €220,000 family home
» Comfortable family assets divided by judge as husband's strategy in conducting the case 'boomerangs' on him
» Adultery claim abandoned following one day's evidence as case is settled
Delays are often a feature of complaints in the family law area. The Courts Service arranges with the presidents of the Circuit and District Courts for extra and special sittings to deal with family law specifically. The report charts the mixed success of a special week organised to tackle delay in the Midland Circuit - half the cases we re further adjourned for a variety of reasons offered to the court.
Statistics are included for Cork Circuit Court for October 2006. All cases settled - though not before many having had several court appearances and negotiation difficulties.
The report also gives an overview of two judgments given in Dublin dealing with nullity and how this up to now hidden area of law operates.
This second issue, aided by an extended period of examination, marks a further significant stage in building up a body of material, of enabling a wide audience to have a greater understanding of the vast range of problems and issues presented to the family law courts.
Family law is one of the most difficult areas in which the courts have to function. Judges in family law courts regularly have to deal with intractable problems arising from human failings and weaknesses where there is no ideal solution - where there is the difficult search for the best solution in all the circumstances - and also even more difficult, often heartrending, cases where there is serious neglect or abuse of children. The dedication of judges sitting in family law courts in dealing with these intractable issues, should not be underestimated. It is essential that these courts have available all the professional assistance necessary to their work, particularly where the interests of children are at stake.