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Family Law Civil Bills: What You Need to Know

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A single mother at home with her children, representing the basis for a Family Law Civil Bills

If you plan to take a legal action against your spouse or a family member, you are likely to need to produce a Family Law Civil Bill. In this short guide, we answer some of the key questions about civil bills and their role in family law cases.

What is a Family Law Civil Bill?

A Family Law Civil Bill is a legal document that initiates proceedings in family law cases within the Circuit Court. It outlines the specific claims or relief being sought by the applicant, ranging from divorce, separation, custody, and access to children, to maintenance and property issues. The bill details the facts of the case, the legal grounds for the relief sought, and is accompanied by any necessary supporting documents. It serves as the formal notification to the other party involved in the case, allowing them to respond and prepare their defence or counterclaims.

What details are always included in a Family Civil Law Bill?

It always includes the applicant’s name and address, the respondent’s name and address, the legal grounds for the application, and the specific orders or relief being sought from the court. It also details the factual circumstances supporting the application, ensuring the court understands the context and basis of the claims made. This document serves as the foundation for the legal proceedings, guiding the court’s understanding of the case and the outcomes desired by the applicant.

What types of Family Law Civil Bills are there?

In Ireland, Family Law Civil Bills are required in many different family-related legal proceedings. Examples include:

  • Divorce – in addition to the details always included, this type of Family Law Civil Bill will also include the time and length the parties have lived apart, details of any previous matrimonial relief sought or obtained, details of any previous separation agreement, the details of any dependent children, and the basis of jurisdiction under the Divorce Act.
  • Judicial Separation – containing very similar information to that contained in a divorce civil bill, however, with the basis of jurisdiction under the Judicial Separation Act.
  • Nullity – initiating the proceedings to seek a decree of nullity, whereby a court declares a marriage null and void. The bill will contain the specific issues to be tried.
  • Guardianship – outlining precise reliefs sought concerning children, including custody and child support payments.
  • Maintenance – detailing the precise reliefs sought and the persons they are being sought for.
  • Property – outlining the description and nature of the property, business, or monies that are being disputed.

Each type of bill is designed to address specific aspects of family law, providing a legal framework for the resolution of family disputes.

What should I do if I have received a Family Law Civil Bill?

If you receive a civil bill, such as one issuing divorce proceedings against you, it’s important to take it seriously and act promptly. You should read it carefully to understand the claims made against you and the orders sought. Then, consult a solicitor specialising in family law to get legal advice tailored to your situation. Your solicitor can help you understand your rights, the potential outcomes, and the next steps, such as filing a defence or engaging in mediation. It’s crucial to meet all legal deadlines to ensure your interests are fully represented and protected in the proceedings.

Can I challenge the orders sought in the bill?

Absolutely, that is why it is important to seek legal guidance as early as possible. There are a multitude of steps your solicitor will need to take quickly to protect your interests. For example, if you have received a Divorce Civil Bill and wish to contest it, you will need to lodge an Appearance to show your intention to contest it, a Defence (and possibly a Counterclaim) to dispute the claims made in the bill, an Affidavit of Means (Form 37A) detailing financial status, and an Affidavit of Welfare (Form 37B) regarding children’s welfare.

Can I handle all this without a solicitor?

It’s not mandatory to involve a solicitor but you may find yourself struggling to understand legal procedures and you may place yourself at risk of not protecting your best interests if you don’t. A solicitor’s expertise ensures all documents are correctly prepared, that all relevant legal points are covered, and that your rights and interests are adequately represented.

Have you received a Family Law Civil Bill?

If you have received a bill and would like advice on your next steps, the family law team at McCarthy + Co will be glad to assist you. Arrange a consultation with us using our confidential online form and a member of our team will be in touch to schedule a time for your appointment.

Clíodhna O'Regan

Born and raised in Clonakilty, Clíodhna O’Regan is an Associate Solicitor specialising in conveyancing, with a particular interest in commercial conveyancing. She also specialises in family law. She has been an integral part of McCarthy + Co. for six years since she returned West in January 2017, after gaining experience as a conveyancing and probate solicitor in Cork city.

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