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It is often said that there is no law in family law and to a certain extent that is correct and that can make it difficult to advise clients. Clients will often ask what would a Judge be likely to do. Whilst it is possible to advise as to what a Judge is likely to do it is impossible to predict the outcome of any one case. There are a lot of variables in family law to include number of dependencies, value of assets, the parties earnings, the parties earning capacities, the existence and value of Pensions. The dependency of each family members also changes. Some children will have additional needs over and above that as may be reasonably expected and clearly in all cases the Courts in so far as they can will seek to minimise financial consequences for children. However, this is not always possible given the limited finances available.
The law advises that proper provision should be made for spouses and children, however, proper provisions is case specific as each family and individual are different. This can make it difficult to accurately predict the outcome of any case. However, experienced legal practitioners will be able to advise as to what is likely and what is the best outcome for the client.
In virtually all cases the best outcome for the client is successful negotiation of family law proceedings away from Court. The institution of a Court case in my opinion serves to further alienate spouses/partners. It also means that persons can adopt entrenched positions. Furthermore, in family law there may be a spouse who has been left and who may feel utterly betrayed by the other and who may be seeking revenge for that hurt caused. Unfortunately, the family law system does not provide for that and that feeling can, in fact, lengthen Court proceedings unnecessarily and waste assets on legal fees. In reality it is the attitude of the parties that determine legal costs. Currently, it is the case the Solicitors are obliged to advise clients as to mediation. My own view is that the law should be strengthened in that regard. It should be the case that if parties do not engage in mediation specific reasons need to be given as to the reason why. This will encourage parties to negotiate through mediation rather than through the Court. Therefore, it should be easier to opt in to mediation rather than opt out and currently that is not the case. We in Waterford are fortunate, in fact, we have a local free family mediation system. From an emotional and financial point of view this is the best avenue for persons to go down. Mediation services are under resourced, but in spite of that the waiting lists in Waterford are not particularly long.
The legal system is not suited to family law. Judges have little or no training and the family law legal system should be assisted by external agencies given the nature of the litigation and how personal it is to the people involved. You will find hereunder a link to the mediation services and to the Irish Times article dated the 11th August, 2020.