Many people ask for advice on relationship breakups

Citizens’ Information Centers in Wicklow deal with many questions regarding relationships and marriage breakdowns, particularly at this time of year.

his has been amplified in the wake of the pandemic. One of the biggest concerns for most separating couples is what will happen to the family home and if there are children, who will get custody of them.

Separation agreements: The Citizens’ Information Centers (CIC) always advise separating couples to try to reach an amicable separation agreement in which they agree to 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 help couples agree on the terms of their separation or, alternatively, couples can find their own private mediation service. If this is not possible or if one of the parties refuses to commit, the other party may have no choice but to pursue a legal separation/divorce in court.

At this stage, it may be advantageous but not mandatory to use the services of a lawyer. Attorney fees can be expensive, so it’s important to get a quote.

The local CIC offers a referral service to Free Legal Advice Clinics (FLAC). This is a free service that allows clients to obtain basic legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

Depending on the means of the clients, they may be entitled to legal aid. To benefit from legal aid, an individual’s disposable income cannot exceed €18,000; Your local CIC office can help you complete the application form.

Ownership: Each person has the right to reside in the family home unless they agree otherwise or there is a court order for a person to leave. Neither party can sell, mortgage, rent or transfer the family home without the consent of their spouse. Similar protection is provided for the common domicile of civil partners in civil partnership legislation.

Custody: Custody refers to the daily care, residence and education of dependent children. In the event of legal separation or divorce, a joint or sole custody order will be made.

Sole custody means the children live permanently with the parent who has custody, the other parent can have access to the children at agreed times, this can include overnight access. If either parent denies the other parent access to their children, we suggest that the parent who is being denied access go to their local district court for an access order.

Maintenance: There is a legal responsibility for both parents, whether married or not, to maintain dependent children and for spouses/civil partners to support each other within their means.

There is often a misconception that there is a specific amount of support paid per child. This is an error. Child support is calculated based on the income and expenses of both parents. If either parent refuses to pay child support, an order can be sought from the local district court. It is not always necessary to hire legal representation to do this.

Martina Cronin, development manager, South Leinster/Co. Wicklow Citizens Information Service, said the service was dealing with family law issues after Christmas.

“We are always here to help with such questions and will refer clients to experts in this area if needed.”

A growing number of clients need in-depth assistance and CIS plays an important role in advocating for the rights of those who need it, or on their behalf, including people with disabilities, migrants, refugees, single parents, the Traveler community, prisoners, geographically isolated people and those who may not have access to digital resources. Basically anyone working or living in County Wicklow who has a problem that needs addressing or is at a crossroads in their life. For anyone in need of unbiased, confidential, non-judgmental and informed advice and support, CIS is here to help. There are many ways to access their services. Their website, citizeninformation.ie, is full of useful information.

For more information, call Bray CIC on 0818 07 6780. Services are available Monday to Friday and are free and confidential.

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