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Family law is different from other areas of law. It is fluid, it evolves, and it is uniquely set in an emotional context from the moment the relationship breaks down. With the significant increase of non-traditional families, and increasing numbers of international families, we need to develop a joined up thinking approach, inter-jurisdictionally, to drive family law reform. Family justice systems within Europe are slow and internationally unresponsive. The development of a unified system of family justice across Europe is long overdue. When a relationship ends we need to identify and implement appropriate steps, that it is generally understood by all Member States, ought to be accessed pre-litigation. Mandatory information programmes and mandatory mediation could be introduced, with potentially a costs sanction for failure to comply, where attendance is not in good faith, or for failure to attend. A motion to waive any mandated requirements could be submitted, but the court should decide when to enforce. If mandated pre-litigation steps were in force across the Community, this would create a 'cooling off' period, and would negate the incentive to issue first. Multi-lingual dissemination of information through real and virtual 'assistance centres' would address the current dearth of information, a lacuna filled with technologically mediated auto-didacticity.
By Róisín O' Shea, Doctoral Scholar, Irish Research Council, Ireland
This article appeared appears in the November 2012 issue of International Family Law.
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