IT can take up to eighteen months before a contested Family Law case is heard at Portlaoise Circuit Court.
It is the fourth longest wait among the twenty-six Circuit Courts in the state, with the waiting time before a similar case is heard in Letterkenny being 18 months, Naas 24 months and Wexford 27 to 30 months. The waiting time for Tullamore Circuit Court is 6 to 9 months.
Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter revealed the prolonged waiting times in the Dáil where he also outlined that a new separate Family Courts structure was being proposed.
The Minister commented, “The Government has approved, in principle, proposals for a number of major reforms to our court system which will in due course require the holding of a Constitutional referendum.”
An uncontested Family Law case in Portlaoise Circuit Court will be heard immediately at the ‘next sitting’, while the waiting time for a Family Law Appeal is 3 to 6 months.
At Portlaoise District Court, Family Law Domestic Violence Applications are heard at the ‘next sitting’, while Family Law Maintenance / Guardianship Applications have a waiting time of 8 to 12 weeks.
Whereas at Carlow and Cork District Courts the waiting time for similar applications is twelve and twenty-four weeks, respectively - Cork having the longest waiting time in the state.
The Courts Service stressed that urgent interim Family Law applications are dealt with immediately on the ‘next sitting’ in every District Court area.
Minister Shatter said that the new President of the District Court Judge Rosemary Horgan ‘intends to assess all backlogs and waiting times with a view to seeing how cases can be dealt with more quickly’.
He suggested that judicial retirements and promotions to other courts in the latter half of 2011 and earlier this year gave rise to up to fifteen vacancies on the Circuit and District Courts.
“These vacancies combined with absences due to illness and Tribunal work, added significantly to the already heavy workload of those courts and did give rise to added delays.”
Minister Shatter remarked that both courts now have a full complement of judges appointed.