I appreciate the concerns that the public health emergency is causing for many families in relation to court orders for matters such as access, maintenance and guardianship.
However I think it’s important to point out that court orders in relation to access remain in place. The restrictions brought in to tackle Covid-19 do not stop them being implemented, and should not be used as an excuse by either party.
Obviously, during this time, there may be instances where it is impossible for couples to adhere strictly to the terms of an Order, and the President of the District Court, last week, clarified that parents could come to mutually agreed arrangements for alternative contact, which could involve phone calls, or skype etc. Such agreement should be noted by email or text message.
If parties cannot agree on an alternative arrangement, mediation services are still available and should be used.
I would simply appeal to everyone to remember that at all times, the welfare of the child is paramount.
Notes for Editors
While court offices are still open, they are only open for essential business, and by appointment only, and the Judiciary and the Courts Service have advised that applications for breach of access or maintenance are not generally considered to be urgent.
However, according to the Practice Direction of the President of the District Court, a case which does not come into the defined urgent category can be treated as urgent if a good case can be made, and this will be decided, by the Court, on a case by case basis.
The Family Mediation Service of the Legal Aid Board is offering free telephone mediation and conflict coaching. More details about this service can be found at www.legalaidboard.ie