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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Hearing voices, Valerian overdose, Reaping the whirlwind.

 Last week I spent a day in the Family Law District court with six hundred or so other souls, waiting, waiting, for our cases to be reached. There being upwards of two hundred cases in the list to be dealt with on that same day . We waited, pushed on top of one another in a smallish Foyer, having standing room only with very little in the way of  of seating, as the hours ticked gruellingly by. Marriage breakdown, questions of custody and access to children, domestic violence, all matters bringing  us to that place.We were tormented in not  knowing when our cases would be reached, and straining to hear a court clerk who stood on a chair and called out cases in batches periodically over the heads of  the anxious crowd. In the evening my kind husband presented me with a cup of Calming Herbal Tea, with, as I told him, enough valerian in it to fell a horse. I wasn't looking to healthy he said. I told him to go easy on his spoonfuls of herbals. It's the voices, I told him echoing, insisting, whistling insanely  in my poor frazzled head, clamouring to be heard.

 .                                                    .......(fairly) desperate lawyers
                                                                                                                                                              "OH NO! You can't LEAVE! Yeah I KNOW You've been here since 9.00am.  I KNOW we're 189th in the list, I KNOW there's no where to sit, you need a cigarette, the bathroom, to feed the meter,  get some coffee, phone your sitter. I KNOW. But you can't actually leave.

"Get through that list? Oh yeah he'll get through that list,  keep going untill he does. He doesn't adjourn. Not for any reason. Ever. I mean adjournments right,  why do you think there's two hundred cases in the list? AND adjourned  where??   Onto another list, that's where.. He's like... like the Lone Ranger here, he's gonna like deal with every thing. How? like a knife through butter. In his own sweet way. Like short, bewildering but definitely, when you leave, OVER.. He'll be the last man standing when darkness falls".

"Evidence? He doesn't do evidence. He  hasn't got  time for evidence. He does decisions. And when your case is called start talking from the door on your way in, get in first, before like the other guy, make sure it's your voice he hears. Hey,  it's a small window, you don't want to overload the guy, its a  finely balanced edifice in there"?.

"All wrong? Yeah it's all wrong. but hey, at least you get a decision! And if you don't like it, well hey  go out there and.... AGREE, concur, parlay with your ex husband, lover, partner, one night stand.  Forget the war, forget the battering he gave you, the way she made your babies hate you, the bedsit she won't let you bring them to, the way he left you broke with young children he lavishes useless stuff on come Sunday just because he can. Get back out there and sort it out yourself."

                                            ..........(like) cattle driven off a cliff

"But.. this is important. Sensitive. Delicate stuff. Is't it? It needs time. Patience. Careful consideration. Doesn't it? This is just not going to end well.  Is it?

"Don't know. . Here for five hours now and just managed to grab a seat. Still, I think my ex is gone, he's like,  you know, claustrophobic. Standing like cattle in a pen for six hours solid's not his thing. Hah!.

"Legal aid?, you're kidding. I paid  €600 to mine. For this. Still she looks pretty green around the gills too. Keeps telling me to let her do the talking, she does. Because we won't have much time, she says.  Be ready, cos we won't know when it will be called, she told me. Be prepared, we won't get much of a hearing, she thinks. But, also, not to worry she say, we can appeal.  It's the luck of the draw, also, we can appeal. Could come out right, who know's,  we can appeal.  But anyway but  yeah she says  we can appeal".

"Divorce? Forget divorce. We were going to sell the house, go our ways, agree time spent with  the kids. Now he lives it in the dining room, house is a war zone, bank won't let us sell, negative equity you know, all that. And we have to get a protection order, safety order, barring order, stop a killing, go on medication, get one of us out,"
                                                   .........a whirlwind for the reaping.

And so the day wore on, the gathering evening light penetrating the high court house windows at  the Family Law District Court  folks. Where I  gratefully found a wall to lean against by afternoon (standing room only for this party). Grimly humorous. More grim than humorous. I grimly think about how everything has shifted in Ireland in recent years. A quietly building  tsunami of people having a marriage split, a relationship break up, a fruitful one night stand, and this is what we offer in the fallout.

We need a dedicated nine to five, five day a week Court, stoopid. With  mediators, councillors, social workers attached.  And judges who choose the work, are given a chance to judge,and to learn how. .  Expensive? doesn't have to be, it's a question of planning, vision, recruiting the good and interested people.

And if we don't well,  then we stand over a  system that does actual harm.. Does anyone have any idea just how many children have major decisions made about the trajectory of their lives in  this system? Effectively minced  along with their parents at the end of  this bizarre assembly line. We will answer, are answering already  to a generation, in our  failure to meet this need.  Better to have no "family Law" courts at all.