Know your rights
Wicklow’s Citizens Information Centres deal with a lot off queries regarding relationship and marital breakdown particularly at this time of the year.
This has been amplified as a consequence of the pandemic. One of the biggest concerns most separating couples have is what will happen to the family home and if there are children, who will get custody.
Separation Agreements: The Citizens Information Centres (CICs) would always advise separating couples to try to come to an amicable separation agreement whereby they agree the terms of their separation. If this is not possible, CICs can offer to refer clients to a mediation service.
This service is provided free of charge and can assist couples to agree the terms of their separation or alternatively couples can source their own private mediation service. If this is not possible or one party refuses to engage, the other party may be left with no other option than to pursue a legal separation/divorce via the courts.
At this stage it may be beneficial but not obligatory, to engage the services of a solicitor. Solicitor’s fees can be costly so it is important to get a quotation.
The local CIC offers a referral service to Free Legal Advice Clinics (FLAC). This is a free service which allows clients to get basic legal advice from a qualified lawyer.
Depending on the clients’ means they may be entitled to Legal Aid. In order to qualify for Legal Aid an individual’s disposable income cannot exceed €18,000; Your local CIC can assist you in completing the application form.
Property: Each person has the right to reside in the family home unless they agree otherwise or there is a court order for one person to leave. Neither party can sell, mortgage, lease or transfer the family home without the consent of their spouse. Similar protection is provided for the shared home of civil partners in civil partnership legislation.
Custody: Custody refers to the day-to-day care, residency and upbringing of dependent children. In cases of judicial separation or divorce, there will be an order made for either shared or sole custody.
Sole custody means the children live permanently with the parent who has custody, the other parent may be granted access to the children at agreed times, this can include overnight access. If one parent is denying the other parent access to their children, we would suggest that the parent being denied access should apply to their local district court for an access order.
Maintenance: There is a legal responsibility on both parents, whether married or unmarried, to maintain dependent children and on spouses/civil partners to maintain each other in accordance with their means.
There is often a misconception that there is a specific amount of maintenance paid per child. This is incorrect. Maintenance is calculated according to the income and expenses of both parents. If one parent refuses to pay maintenance, an order can be sought through the local district court. It is not always necessary to engage legal representation to do this.
Martina Cronin, Development Manager, South Leinster Citizens Information Service/ Co. Wicklow said the service has been dealing with family law queries after Christmas.
“We are always here to help with such matters and will refer clients to experts in this area when required.”
A growing number of customers require in-depth assistance and CIS plays an important role in providing advocacy with, or on behalf of, those people who need it, including people with disabilities, migrants, refugees, lone parents, the Travelling Community, prisoners, geographically isolated people and those who may not have access to digital resources. Basically anyone working or living County Wicklow who has an issue that needs addressing or is at a crossroads in their lives. For anyone needing impartial, confidential, non-judgemental and informed advice and support the CIS is here to help, There are many ways to access their services. Their website, citizensinformation.ie, is packed full of helpful information.
For more information call Bray CIC on 0818 07 6780. Services are available from Monday to Friday and are free and confidential.