Separated, divorced fathers’ access to their children via video ‘not being facilitated’

Fathers Rights Ireland claims denial of access during Covid-19 crisis is ‘big problem’

The president of the District Court said estranged couples are free to vary family court orders during the crisis as long as both parties agree

The president of the District Court said estranged couples are free to vary family court orders during the crisis as long as both parties agree

 

Separated and divorced fathers are not being facilitated to see their children via video technology, Fathers Rights Ireland has claimed.

The group said it has been contacted by a number of men in recent days about being denied access to their children due to the coronavirus crisis, and that it is “a big problem”.

Judge Colin Daly, president of the District Court, said last week that estranged couples are free to vary family court orders during the crisis as long as both parties agree.

Judge Daly urged parents to communicate with each other and to use video technology to facilitate child access as the family courts are dealing almost exclusively with emergency domestic violence cases during the pandemic.

Conor Dignam, who runs Fathers Rights Ireland, said “in the last week or so there’s been a lot of messages asking what can they [fathers] do about it”.

“There is no access at the moment for dads, and now a lot of them are contacting us saying they’re not allowed get even video chats or anything like that. A lot of them are in bits now,” he said.

“At least when a court order is in place you can force them [mothers] to comply with it, but they have a real excuse here if they want to interfere with access.”

The Department of Justice said court orders in relation to access remain in place and “in general parties are obliged to keep them”.

“However, acknowledging that there might be some issues or concerns about travelling for visits, 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,” a spokesman for the Department said.

“There will be further clarifications contained in the Department of Health Regulations, once published.”

The Department said if parties cannot agree on an alternative arrangement, mediation services are still available and should be used.

Separately, gardaí and domestic violence groups have said they are concerned the stress of the current crisis and the increased amount of time people must stay in their homes will lead to a greater risk of domestic violence.

Operation Faoisimh, unveiled by An Garda this week, involves gardaí making calls to previous victims of domestic violence to “ascertain any existing issues of concern and to ensure the protection of families”.