Long waits at family courts lead to high emotions

‘It’s not a game,’ judge tells Nenagh couple in dispute over daughter

Men and women spend the day dwelling on the perceived wrongs done to them and by the time they make it to the courtroom they are often tired, usually emotional and sometimes fit to burst.

Men and women spend the day dwelling on the perceived wrongs done to them and by the time they make it to the courtroom they are often tired, usually emotional and sometimes fit to burst.

Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 01:04

People filled the seating areas, foyer and outside space at Bray District Court on Wednesday this week, all waiting for their cases.

The difference from other areas of law, is that those involved in family and childcare must wait outside court until their names are called.

In Dublin, Dolphin House deals with family law every day, but elsewhere in the country, District Courts have designated family law days each month.

In all, 75 cases were to be heard on Wednesday in Bray; in Drogheda on Tuesday there were 45 and although the list was shorter in Nenagh on Thursday, the registrar there was predicting a long day at the court’s final family session of the term later on this month.

In each court, all of the cases were listed for first thing in the morning and all of those involved arrived at the same time. They packed the courtrooms for call over, when the case names were read out one by one to check that the parties were present, and then they filtered out into the corridors and seated areas to wait for their turn.

Every case heard was an important one; important for the men and women involved and very important for the children often at their centre. Decisions were made that will seriously affect their young lives.

Bickering and shouting

On Thursday, at Nenagh District Family Court, Judge Elizabeth McGrath sought a second opinion in the case of a six-year-old in foster care: a psychiatrist had recommended behavioural control drugs for probable Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The Child and Family Agency social worker said the child couldn’t be brought anywhere and that the doctor was very careful about prescribing medication.

The judge said she was concerned about her age. She said she wanted to be satisfied that all other options were considered. “Medication is a nuclear option,” she said.

In another case, the same judge reprimanded the parents of another young child.

The case involved maintenance arrears on a payment of €130 a week. The father had unilaterally decided to reduce it and the mother had responded by reducing his access to his daughter.

The mother also wanted the court to dispense with the need for the father to sign a passport application.

Texts were read out in court: “€80 a week Monday and Friday,” one read. These were the father’s new terms.

The mother responded with “you’re a disgusting pig” and warned him that the courts were closing shortly until September and she could be gone.