Circuit Court Rules (Family Law) 2017
New Circuit Court rules governing family law cases in the Dublin Circuit area only came into effect on 14th June 2017.
These changes came about pursuant to the President of the Circuit Court setting up a consultative group involving representatives from various bodies to include the Law Society, the Bar Council, the Family Lawyers Association and the Dublin Solicitors Bar Association. The group also comprised Ms. Rita Considine, County Registrar for County Dublin and Mr. Noel Rubotham, head of development at the Courts Service. The group was chaired by her Honour Judge Sarah Berkeley.
Our partner, Aidan Reynolds, represented the Law Society in the group.
Aidan has also been appointed by the Law Society to sit on the Dublin Circuit Family Court Users group which has been appointed to monitor ongoing issues in the Dublin Circuit Family Court which will include the bedding in of the new Rules. The inaugural meeting of the group took place in May 2017.
The changes that have been brought in are designed to ensure the expeditious prosecution of family law proceedings in the Dublin Circuit Court.
There are one or two particularly significant changes. One is the ability now for practitioners to fast track cases before the Court for ruling where Settlement Terms have been arrived at. Another relates to the Case Progression process. A summary of these main changes is set out below. The new Rules are now designed to ensure that the compliant party in Case Progression is not prejudiced or disadvantaged by the actions or indeed, inaction of the non-compliant party.
SUMMARY OF CHANGES
Simplification of Guardianship Applications:
There is no longer the need for a separate originating Notice of Motion for relief sought in relation to Guardianship if the relief is claimed in the Civil Bill. It is now permitted to proceed by way of Notice of Motion (and not Civil Bill) if there are other proceedings between the same parties all concerning the same child.
One is now obliged to state the name, description and address of each party to the proceedings and where no party to the proceedings is resident in the County, Indorsement of Claim must state the basis on which jurisdiction is being claimed.
Form of Appearance:
An Appearance must now be entered even where the Respondent does not intend to contest the application (where possible).
Motions for Judgement/Ruling on consent – now called Judgement in Default by Consent
Fourteen clear days must elapse between the Motion issuing and the hearing date;
The Affidavit grounding the Motion must exhibit the Terms of Consent, if in writing, together with updated Affidavits of Means of each party;
If one party is not going to be present at the hearing, then the non-attending party must file an Affidavit stating that they have read and understood the Terms of Consent, confirming their agreement and also confirming that they have taken legal advice or have been afforded the opportunity of taking legal advice in relation to the Settlement Terms;
When the Motion comes before the Court, the Court may give judgement or may adjourn the matter and direct the attendance of the non-attending party as required or give directions as to service of Notice of Trial;
It is now effectively a self-certifying process and with the abolition of automatic listing for Case Progression within seventy days. It now operates on a default basis. If neither party has done anything at all post filing Defence papers and within a six month period, then the case is automatically listed for Case Progression before the County Registrar.
There are now new ways of listing the matter before the County Registrar namely:-
Jointly – both parties complete all the pre-case progression steps in the new forms provided.Both parties jointly lodge a completed Certificate of Completion together with completed Case Progression Questionnaire.Once the Certificate of Completion has been lodged then a date of no later than twenty one days will be given for Case Progression.
One party complies and the other party is non-compliant – the moving party can issue a Motion and appended to that would be a Certificate of Completion of the pre-case questionnaire steps and the CPQ.This Motion is then returnable before the County Registrar for Case Progression.
If the parties comply with the Case Progression steps and with all or any other Orders made they can apply to the County Registrar to list the matter before her for Case Progression with a view to fixing a date. This can arise even where a date has been set for Case Progression and allows compliant parties to get the Case Progression date quickly.