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Our family courts must end secrecy

The letter 'Mr Myers is not a family law expert' (Irish Independent, March 17, 2011) by Josepha Madigan, Family Law partner, accredited mediator and collaborative practitioner, criticised Kevin Myers when he mentioned "that secret family courts are routinely expelling fathers from family homes, with utter disregard for one half of the binary core of our legal system, that justice be seen to be done".

She says that "Mr Myers is not privy to the so-called 'secret' orders made in the family law courts on a daily basis".

However, Ms Madigan, who is a family lawyer, is not privy to the secret orders either. She only has access to the orders made where she was in court representing her own clients.

The fact of the matter is that no one can claim to be an expert in Family Law in Ireland due to the secrecy of the courts. Any reports that have been allowed cannot be scrutinised by the reporters' peers as required in other fields of expertise.

However, according to a recent report by Dr Anne Egan, who observed 158 cases in the District and Circuit Family Courts for the purpose of a PhD, after divorce "all children continued to live with their mother, with fathers having joint custody".

A more recent report by Dr Evelyn Mahon indicated that 100pc of maintenance cases went against fathers, regardless of whether it was the father who sought a reduction in the maintenance he was paying or the mother who sought an increase.

The failure of our State to uphold the rights of children to be cared for equally by both parents will continue unabated until the veil of secrecy in the courts is lifted. Then, justice will be seen to be done.