Children’s rights should guide family law reform.
Courts should be last resort for separating families, where there are no safety concerns.
Wednesday 2 June 2021
A webinar on family law reform has been told children’s rights should guide family law reform. The Building a Family Law System for Children webinar hosted by One Family, heard from national and international experts with panellists from the Department of Justice, Courts Service, academia from the UK and Ireland and a High Court Judge from Northern Ireland.
Dr Jan Ewing of the University of Exeter’s Law School and member of the Family Solutions Group which authored the report “What about me?”) said, “Ireland has the opportunity to learn from the experience and mistakes of England and Wales to create a world-class family law system centred on the rights, needs and safety of the child. Where there are safety issues, these must be prioritised and accessible, affordable access to legal advice and the Family Court are needed. However, in the absence of safety or other welfare concerns, court should be a last resort for parenting disputes. Instead, parents need access to information, advice and well-signposted support to help them to look beyond their relationship issues and toward the rights and needs of their child and the child’s right to have a relationship with both parents.”
Dr Stephanie Holt from Trinity College Dublin said, “In domestic violence the perpetrator targets the whole family. However, our family law system focuses on the perpetrator and immediate victim, failing to understand what it is like to be a child and live with domestic violence and abuse. In reforming family law we must challenge the myth that it is possible to be an abusive partner and a good father; this is simply is not true. Doing so however involves prioritising children’s voice and children’s rights and ensuring mechanisms are in place so the voice of the child is understood at every step of the process.”
Karen Kiernan CEO of One Family said, “We know from our work with families that they are often traumatised from going through the adversarial family courts and this can cause long-lasting damage to children. We strongly advocate for a Family Law Service Model to be developed alongside the new legislation to provide assessments, safety and family supports to families before and during court. When families separate or have issues that need to be agreed, the first responder shouldn’t be a solicitor – instead child-focussed, affordable supports should be available locally”.
Emer Darcy, Head of Family Law Reform, The Courts Service said, “The Courts Service is looking forward to continuing to collaborate with One Family as we progress with our Modernisation Programme to deliver better outcomes for all our users including children and families.”
About One Family:
One Family is Ireland’s organisation for people parenting alone, sharing parenting and separating, offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those sharing parenting, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to professionals working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services.
These services include the askonefamily national helpline on 01-662 9212, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals.
For further information visit: www.onefamily.ie.
- One Family – Family Law submission
- Report of the Family Solutions Group (UK) – What about me?
- Separating Well for Children
Services such as our Tusla-funded, Separating Well for Children project show the depth of demand that exists from people going through the private family law system. This project deescalates the conflict within the family using mediation, parenting support as well as creative therapies for children, allowing parents to put aside their own grievances and focus on the welfare of their children.
Available for Interview
Karen Kiernan, CEO | t: 01 662 9212 or 086 850 9191
Noel Sweeney, Communications and Events Manager | t: 01 622 9212 or 085 7241294