2014 – The tide of change

January 14th, 2014

The coming year is going to see developments in the law areas across many areas, including the changes to adoption, IVF, surrogacy, guardianship and parentage rights signalled by the Minister for Justice in outlining the Family Relationships and Children Bill to be published this year.

However, it is almost invariably the economic changes that have the most impact on the Irish people in 2014.

One change, revealed in the recent budget announcement, is the change to the One Parent family tax credit, allowing only one parent to claim for a child. This will undoubtedly take money out of many parent’s pockets. At the other end of the spectrum, the delayed age for claiming the old age state pension – raised to 66 this year and to increase to 67 in 2021- will hit others.

The new bankruptcy rules will affect many families seeking to separate and regulate their property affairs. Now an insolvent individual can be discharged from bankruptcy after only three years which will make the prospect more attractive to many people. Notably, family maintenance payments can be included in any bankruptcy arrangement. The official assignee in bankruptcy may also apply to have the house sold if there is equity in it, subject to the consent of the High Court. The court must take into account the rights of any creditors, spouses or civil partners or dependants when making this decision. The official assignee will seek to sell the property to the spouse or a civil partner wherever possible.

The Insolvency Service of Ireland have published a guide, colour coded and with clear explanations which can be downloaded by clicking  here.

Social issues are intrinsically linked to the family and we saw many such issues arise in 2013. The introduction of gay marriage in many countries in the world has changed our idea of what constitutes a family

With a referendum heralded for 2015, 2014 will no doubt be a year of enormous debate. Already the Catholic Church, under its new Pope, has sought the opinions of its members by circulating a questionnaire on the responses to and effectiveness of the churches teachings on the family. Only time can tell what can come of this.

One thing we can be sure of this year is that the tide of change will be in full force in areas that will affect the lives of millions of Irish people now and in the years to come.