District Court - Family law
District Court offices
- issuing of proceedings
- preparation and management of the court lists
- checking and issuing of the orders of the courts
- receipting and payment out of maintenance payments where directed by the court
- providing support to the judge
- dealing with public enquiries and requests
Proceedings under the various Acts in the jurisdiction of the District Court are heard otherwise than in public and only officers of the court, the parties and their legal representatives, witnesses and such other persons as the judge in his or her discretion shall allow, shall be permitted to be present at the hearing.
Proceedings under Family Law Acts are exempt from court fees
The following is a brief description of the various types of District Court Family Law business dealt with:-
Proceedings in relation to Barring orders, Safety orders and Protection orders under the Domestic Violence Act, 1996.
Guardianship, custody and access matters
The District Court holds concurrent jurisdiction with the Circuit Court to make orders under part ii (Guardianship) and part iii (Enforcement of Right of Custody) of the Act of 1964.
Guardianship is the term used to denote a collection of rights and duties regarding the upbringing of an infant, for example, maintenance, education, health, religion and general welfare.
The court can also adjudicate on all related custody and access matters in relation to an infant. Where the parents of an infant are married to each other both are automatically conferred with guardianship rights. In the case where they are not married the mother of the infant becomes the sole legal guardian by law. It is open to the father of the infant in this case to apply to the court for an order appointing him a guardian jointly with the mother and the court will decide any such case on its merits. Where the mother consents to the father's appointment as joint guardian this can now be done without the necessity of having to go to court.
The passport office in the issuing of passports to underage children require the signature of both guardians on the application form. Where one or other of the guardians refuse to sign the said application form or indeed if their whereabouts is unknown the other parent must apply for an order to the court dispensing with their signature.
It is advisable that parents apply well in advance of any proposed trip for such an order.
Grandparents who are denied access to their grandchildren can now seek access by means of a court order. Full details regarding processing the application are available on request from the relevant District Court office.
Blood Tests (parentage)
Where there is a dispute regarding parentage the regulations made by the Minister for Justice and which came into force on the 5th September 1988 set out the procedures to be followed for the use of blood tests in determining parentage in civil proceedings.
The District Court holds concurrent jurisdiction with the Circuit Court to hear and determine proceedings under the Act of 1976 as amended. However the District Court jurisdiction in terms of award of maintenance it can make is limited to a rate not greater than €500 per week for the support of a spouse or €150 per week for the support of a child.
Lump sum for birth/funeral expenses
The District Court may make a lump sum order not exceeding €952.00 in respect of birth expenses of a dependent child and €952.00 in respect of funeral expenses of a dependent child.
Lump sum maintenance order
The District Court may make a lump sum maintenance order in addition to or instead of an order for periodical payments but the amount or the aggregate of a lump sum payment provided for in an order of the District Court shall not exceed €15,000 - that is civil jurisdiction of the District Court.
Payment of maintenance order
The District Court in making a maintenance order can direct that the payment under the order shall be made to the District Court Clerk unless the maintenance creditor requests it not do so and the Court considers that it would not be proper not to do so. The Circuit Court may as part of its order direct that a maintenance order is payable through the District Court. The District Court has a fully computerised payments system for the receipt and transmission of payments received. Payments received are dispatched to the creditor on the day received. Payments made by cheque are subject to bank clearance. A fully computerised print out of all payments is available to the creditor or debtor on request.
Where a defaulting spouse is in arrears of maintenance the applicant spouse can seek to enforce a maintenance order through the District Court.
There are various different remedies open to the court. The court can make an attachment order against the defaulter's salary or pension, can bring the defaulter back before the court either by summons or by warrant to arrest and can then make an order of committal to prison for a period not exceeding three months or until the amount outstanding is paid.
Recovery of maintenance outside jurisdiction of the State
There are various Acts which allow for the recovery of maintenance outside the jurisdiction of the State, for example the Maintenance Act of 1974 covers all parts of the United Kingdom.
There have also been various international conventions to which Ireland is a contracting party and which various other countries have ratified which allow for persons living in a particular country to recover maintenance from a person living in a country who has ratified that convention.
The Maintenance Act of 1974 provides for the making of variation and discharging of maintenance orders against a respondent residing in the reciprocating jurisdiction of "Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland." The Act also provides for the enforcement within this State of a maintenance order made in the United Kingdom and in respect of which the master of the High Court has made an order for its enforcement in this State.
Maintenance orders made in a State which is a contracting party to the Brussels or Lugano Convention can also be enforced in the State by the District Court where ever the master of the High Court has made an enforceable order. There is a schedule of countries which have ratified these conventions. The legislation which enabled Ireland to ratify these conventions is the Jurisdiction of Courts and Enforcement of Judgements Acts 1993.
The Maintenance Act of 1994 which came into force on 25th November 1995 enabled the State to ratify two other International Conventions. These Conventions (Rome and New York) made it easier for persons living in the territory of one of the parties to the Conventions to recover maintenance from persons living in the territory of another party.
Restriction on disposal of household chattels
When it appears to the court, on application of a spouse, that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the other spouse intends to sell, lease, pledge, charge or otherwise dispose of or to remove such a number or proportion of the household chattels in a Family home as would be likely to make it difficult for the applicant spouse or a dependant child of the family to reside in the family home without undue hardship, the court may by order prohibit on such terms as it may see fit, the other spouse from making such intended disposition or removal. The above restriction also applies where matrimonial proceedings have been instituted by either spouse and applies until the proceedings have been finally determined unless the spouse consents or the court grants permission to do so.
Relevant Rules of Court and Acts
District Court Rules 1997
For the purpose of family law business, Part (iii) of the civil proceedings orders 54 to 62 inclusive incorporate all aspects of family law proceedings.
Family law acts
Married Women's Status Act, 1957 - No. 5 of 1957
Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964 - No. 7 of 1964
Marriages Act, 1972 - No. 30 of 1972
Maintenance Orders Act, 1974 - No. 16 of 1974
Maintenanace Order Act, (Commencement) Order, 1975 - S.I. No. 23 of 1975
Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act, 1976 - No. 11 of 1976
Family Home Protection Act, 1976 - No. 27 of 1976
Family Law Act, 1981 - No. 22 of 1981
Circuit Court Rules (No. 3) 1982 (Family Law (Protection of Spouses and Children) Act, 1982 - S.I. No. 152 of 1982
Circuit Court Rules (No. 6) Order 68 Married Women's Status Act, 1957 s. 12. Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964. Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act 1976. Illegitimate Children (Affilliation Orders) and Order 69. Matrimonial Causes and Marriage Law (Ireland) Amendment Act, 1870. 1982 - S.I. No. 158 of 1982
Circuit Court Rules (No. 7) Family Home Protection Act 1976, 1982 - S.I. No. 244 of 1982
Domicile and Recognition of Foreign Divorces Act, 1986 - No. 24 of 1986
Status of Children Act, 1987 - No. 26 of 1987
Family Law Act, 1988 - No. 31 of 1988
Blood Tests (Parentage) Regulations, 1988 - S.I. No. 215 of 1988
Judicial Separation and Family Law Reform Act, 1989 - No. 6 of 1989
Rules of the Superior Courts (No. 1) Amendments to Orders 2 and 70. Family Law Proceedings 1990 - S.I. No. 97 of 1990
Child Abduction and Enforcement of Custody Orders Act, 1991 - No. 6 of 1991
Child Care Act, 1991 - No. 17 of 1991
Occupational Pensions Schemes (Disclosure of Information) Regulations 1991 - S.I. No. 215 of 1991
Maintenance Act, 1994 - No. 28 of 1994
Family Law Act, 1995 - No. 26 of 1995
Domestic Violence Act, 1996 - No. 1 of 1996
Family Law (Divorce) Act, 1996 - No. 33 of 1996
Family Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1997 - No. 18 of 1997
Children Act, 1997 - No. 40 of 1997