Going into a courtroom for the first time can be intimidating. The Ombudsman for Children’s Office and the Court Services of Ireland have produced a very helpful recording which explains the court process and provides an insight into the workings of the court.
In the context of family law proceedings the recording identifies those parties who will be present in the courtroom and seeks to allay any fears on the part of those in attendance. Having an idea of what to expect and an understanding of who each person is in the courtroom can help ease the stress of the situation.
When a family law dispute is brought before the courts, if a resolution cannot be agreed between the parties; then the judge will decide the outcome of the case having read all of the documents filed in court and where necessary having listened to both sides of the arguments will make the appropriate orders, for example an order for maintenance, custody or access and/or a decree of divorce.
The judge hearing your case does not know you or your children personally, and can only make a decision based on the proper evidence put in front of them. Wherever possible, it is best that the parties to the dispute strive to come to an agreement regarding future arrangements, allowing for a workable future to be planned, especially when it comes to parenting arrangements.
The judge can only make what he/she believes to be the best decision in light of what he/she perceives to be in the best interests of the child or children. However, too often, neither parent is happy with the result.
Parents who can work together to come up with solutions are often best positioned to create a custom-made plan for parenting, because they know their children, and their circumstances better than anyone.
A judge cannot supervise the terms of an order or monitor parenting issues on an ongoing basis. Judges will, most often, use the traditional custody/access language in making a decision and will base decisions about financial support on income information that is known at the time of the hearing (an Affidavit of Means).
In the case of parenting issues, this can create inflexibility that may disadvantage both parents and children as the situation changes, as the order may no longer fit the new situation.
Although the court always retains the power and the right to amend arrangements as necessary on the application of either party, in reality, having the matter relisted in court can be a very slow process and the ability of the court to react as swiftly as maybe required in a given situation is rarely possible.