Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Questions (473)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

473. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the District Court Office in Limerick is unable to process family law court matters, variation orders in particular, unless provided by a solicitor or Legal Aid Office due to staff cut backs; his views on whether this is a fair situation to those who cannot afford legal services and will have a ten month wait for legal aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30668/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service and I have no role in the matter. However, in order to be of assistance I have had enquiries made with the Courts Service and have been informed that all completed family law applications, whether completed by a solicitor, the Legal Aid board or a member of the public, are processed by the District Court Family Law Office in Limerick. The position in Limerick District Court Family Law office, in common with all such offices, is that any persons seeking to make applications for variations of maintenance or custody/access are provided with the necessary forms if requested or, where appropriate, are directed to the Courts Service website where detailed Family Law packs are available. I am informed that while Courts Service staff are instructed that every assistance should be provided to unrepresented litigants they are not in a position to provide legal advice in relation to remedies available in the family law courts. Courts Service staff will advise such persons of the desirability of obtaining independent legal advice, either from a solicitor or the Legal Aid Board in instances especially where the remedy being sought is not clear. I am informed that following a recent internal reorganisation of the District Court Office in Limerick, additional staff resources have recently been provided to the Family Law Office which will facilitate the continued maintenance of a customer focused family law service by the office subject to the constraints around the provision of legal advice by Courts Service staff.