Parents in family law cases may be forced to represent themselves under new Legal Aid restrictions

The Irish Independent – 26th July 2017

PARENTS embroiled in family law cases may be forced to appear in court without any legal representation as a result of a series of restrictions introduced by the cash-strapped Legal Aid Board.

In a memo to family law solicitors yesterday, the board said it has been forced to bring in strict curtailments surrounding the provision of legal aid until at least the end of the year.

The board’s director, Niall Murphy, confirmed that the restrictions will particularly hit people living in Dublin – where the legal aid demands are most acute.

The restrictions mean that some families will be forced to go elsewhere for representation, or suffer significant delays, unless the case relates to domestic violence or enforcement of maintenance.

The decision will impact solicitors that are panellists on the ‘District Court Family Law Private Practitioners Scheme’.

“Due to the need to control its budget the Legal Aid Board regretfully has to introduce significant restrictions in the cases it is referring out to private practitioners under the above scheme,” said the memo, which has been seen by the Irish Independent.

“The Board has noted that there has been a significant increase in the number of referrals within the last 10 months, particularly in Dublin, which has put pressure on the Board’s budget.”

Mr Murphy details that in the busiest centre in Dublin, Dolphins Barn, the restrictions relate to all family law cases except in cases involving domestic violence or enforcement of maintenance.

Last night, solicitor and Fianna Fáil senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee described the curtailments as “unprecedented”.

She said that families in some of the most vulnerable situations will be impacted.

“I am calling on Minister Charlie Flanagan to immediately intervene here. This is an unprecedented scenario and will impact directly on children,” she added.

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