56. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the delay in the family law Bill coming before Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5653/18]
Deputy Charles Flanagan: I acknowledge that Deputy Fitzpatrick has been raising this issue with me for some time. It is an issue that is important to him as a parliamentarian.
The Government remains committed to significant reform of the courts, including the establishment of a family law court structure that is streamlined, more efficient and less costly. My Department is working on the general scheme of a family court Bill which will aim to streamline family law court processes, clarify jurisdictional issues and provide for a set of guiding principles to help ensure the family court will operate in a user-friendly and efficient manner. The intention is to establish a dedicated family court within the existing court structures.
The family court Bill will support the provisions of the Mediation Act 2017 by encouraging greater use of alternative dispute resolution to assist in the more timely resolution of family law cases. As the Deputy will appreciate, it is essential that there is proper planning and consultation with relevant stakeholders in order to ensure the development of a new family court structure can be implemented smoothly and efficiently.
My Department has established a working group comprising officials from my Department, the Courts Service and the Legal Aid Board to examine the operational aspects relating to the family court. The intention is that the working group will develop an overall architecture for the new family court structure. It is consulting with other relevant stakeholders. Key issues arising in consultations include family court venues, facilities, resources, capital investment in family courts and integration of relevant family and child services to provide the best possible family law outcomes.
I hope to secure Government approval in the coming months for the general scheme of a family court Bill. Once the general scheme is approved by the Government, it will be referred to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting and to the appropriate Oireachtas committee for pre-legislative scrutiny.