635. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice the status of the family court Bill; the infrastructure needed to make the legislation fulfil its potential; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25686/21]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Family law reform is a major element of the Justice Plan 2021. The Programme for Government contains a commitment to enact a Family Court Bill to create a new dedicated Family Court within the existing court structure and provide for court procedures that support a less adversarial resolution of disputes.
In September 2020, the Government approved the drafting of a Family Court Bill along the lines of the General Scheme, which has been published. In the preparation of the General Scheme, account has been taken of the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality on the Reform of the Family Law System, published in October 2019.
The General Scheme of the Family Court Bill has been referred to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting and to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice for pre-legislative scrutiny. It is not possible at this stage to indicate when the Bill is likely to be published or to predict the timeframe for the legislative process with regard to the Bill after its publication.
Also in September 2020, the Family Justice Oversight Group was established by my Department. This group will agree a high-level vision and key medium and longer-term objectives for the development of a national family justice system in parallel with the establishment of a dedicated Family Court structure as envisaged by the forthcoming Family Court Bill. The establishment of this Group recognises the need to involve the key state bodies who will need to deliver this substantial reform at the earliest stage in the process. Membership of this group includes officials from my Department as well as representatives from the Courts Service, the Legal Aid Board and officials from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. In addition, the Chief Justice has nominated three members of the judiciary to the group representing the district, circuit and high courts - all of whom have extensive experience of dealing with family law cases - to contribute on the practical elements of implementing this change.
The overall aim is to change the culture so that the focus of the family justice system meets the complex needs of people who need help with family justice issues.