Plan to cut costs and waiting times for divorces

The Irish Independent – 18/01/2017

A plan to cut the period of separation necessary before a divorce from four to two years would also have a significant impact on legal fees, it has been claimed.

Politicians could vote on new proposals being brought by Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan before the end of the year.

Mrs Madigan believes it would have a significant impact on legal fees surrounding divorce, which can become inflated by the long lead-in period.

Sources said the proposed legislation, which would ultimately trigger a constitutional referendum to reduce the separation period, has the support of Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and could be considered in the autumn.

Legal costs surrounding divorce have been a hot topic for many years and were highlighted this week by RTÉ’s ‘Liveline’ radio programme as a divorcee claimed his costs had been slashed from €34,000.

He told the show he was hit with the sizeable legal bills for his divorce, but when he contested the fees with the Law Society, the overall bill was whittled back to €6,500.

Another woman claimed to be facing a bill of close to €5,000, having originally been quoted just €2,500.

Meanwhile, Mrs Fitzgerald is preparing legislation requiring lawyers to urge mediation among their clients, a move which would also impact on the cost of divorces and separations.

According to the Law Society, some 1,271 complaints about excessive costs have been made to it in the past 10 years. However, figures released to the Irish Independent show just 47 of these complaints were upheld. The figures related to all categories of cases.

In its most recent annual report, FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) said roughly half of all family law queries it now receives related to separation or divorce. Estimates for what a divorce should cost in Ireland vary wildly. Some legal practitioners say a case where there is no dispute between the parties could cost as little as €1,200. Others say it can still cost between €12,000 and €20,000 – even for uncomplicated divorces.

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