Access to Court

Access to Court 

There is open access to the family law courts in Ireland and people are entitled to choose to represent themselves in court which means they do not need a solicitor to act on their behalf. The Civil Legal Aid system provides a system of legal representation.  A person may apply for legal aid and if on foot of their application they are deemed to be  financially eligible, the Legal Aid Board will appoint them a solicitor free of charge. While a person can represent himself in court, those appearing before the courts will benefit from the receipt of legal advice, or better yet, legal representation by a solicitor. 

FLAC also offers a summary and detailed guide to civil legal aid. 


In family law cases the person applying to court for a court order is referred to as the Applicant and the other person is called the Respondent.The Court one will attend will depend on the area where the person lives.  Click here for a list of District and Circuit Court areas.  There will also be a list in the public services section of the phone book. 

Family law cases are held in private to protect the privacy of the family. Usually there is only the Judge and a law clerk present in the room, together with both solicitors (if each person has one) and both persons involved in the dispute. Additionally a court reporter may be present but he/she is strictly bound by the rules of court reporting, and most importantly must protect the anonymity of the parties. 

The District Court deals primarily with issues relating to Maintenance, Guardianship (parental responsibility), Custody (day-to-day care) and Access (contact) to children. It also deals with domestic violence matters. 

The Circuit Court deals primarily with Judicial Separation, Divorce and Nullity but can also deal with all matters that arise in these cases such as maintenance and access. 

Every family law court is supported by a family law office. Lay litigants (people who represent themselves without a solicitor) are advised to consult with the Family law clerk at their local office prior to the hearing of any matter in order to ensure that all paperwork is in order and that they know when the case is listed for hearing. Whilst the court staff are not legal professionals and are not in a position to give legal advice, they can ensure that documentation is in order and explain the procedure to be followed. 

Proceedings in family law are exempt from court fees so no fee is payable in respect of the filing or lodging of documents with the court office or any necessary attendance in court. 




The Legal Aid Board 

Free Legal Advice Centres 

  • Address: , 13 Lower Dorset Street, Dublin 1. 
  • Tel:+353 (0)1 8745690 Fax:+353 (0)1 8745320 
  • Website: 
  • Email: 

Family Mediation Service 

Child and Family Agency – Tusla 

Citizens Information 

 Accord Catholic Marriage Counselling Service 



University College Cork

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