Information on dispute resolution
12.55The English Law Commission’s review of custody1207 suggested that: “improving upon the indirect effects of the court’s duty would appear a more effective use of the resources available than strengthening its investigative functions.”1208 The Commission concluded that the courts should do more to put parents in touch with whatever services were available locally.
12.56We recommend that the courts should do more to put parents in touch with support services. More publicity and education of the public is needed to encourage families to go for assistance to local Family Service Centres or other agencies at an early stage of conflict or when problems are first encountered.
12.57The Hartmann Working Group recommended that information on mediation be included in the Information Kit on Marriage which was at that time being prepared by the Social Welfare Department. Legal practitioners also could give the Kit to their clients.1209 This has now been issued and includes information listing addresses of existing counselling services for the use of the public. It refers to the fact that social workers were in the process of being trained as family mediators but does not identify any non-governmental agency providing a mediation service.
12.58The Irish Law Reform Commission suggested that a Family Court Information Centre should be attached to every Family Court.1210 This would provide information to clients about family support services, social welfare entitlements and services, legal aid and advice services, as well as basic information about the operation of the Family Court and the remedies available in it.1211 Clients could also obtain information and advice concerning the availability and purpose of mediation. Information packs would be available to the public.
12.59We recommend that the Family Court should provide information relating to court processes, support services and alternatives to litigation. Leaflets such as the Information Kit on Marriage should be available at the Family Court itself and in the lobby of the High Court Building.
Information on mediation
12.60Since mediation is a relatively new service it needs considerable publicity if it is to be used as a credible alternative to the adversarial process. Indeed, the Chief Justice’s report on court annexed mediation recommended that the court should be under a duty to actively promote mediation, with the Chief Justice approving a document setting out the benefits and procedure for mediation, and
1207 Family Law Review of Child Law: Custody, (1986: Working Paper No.96) at 4.10. It also concluded that the court’s procedure of approving arrangements for children had not been successful in any of its declared aims.
1208 Ibid at 4.13.
1209 Paragraph 12.4.
1210 Report on Family Courts (1996: No.52) at 7.07-11. In their Consultation Paper at paragraph 7.17 they had suggested an advice centre, but after consultation, their Final Report recommended an Information Centre.