Book Review: “A Short Guide to Divorce Law in Ireland – a survival handbook for all the family”

September 18th, 2014

Solicitors who practice in Family Law need a whole different tool kit to those specialising in Commercial or Property Law. Words such as anger, resentment, bitterness, revenge, proper provision and acceptance of changed circumstances do not sit well with balance sheets registration of title and mortgages.

In family law it is as important to know the person as it is to know the law. We struggle with broken dreams, tarnished hopes, economic woes and dual carriageways – people now going in opposite directions. All of this necessitates a different way of looking at problem solving and outcomes that suits the client and his/her circumstances. We are usually the last port of call but it is critical that our clients are both informed and empowered to make realistic and fair decisions at a most vulnerable time in their lives.

A short guide to Divorce Law in Ireland by Helen M Collins is one such tool that could prove very useful in assisting parties in a break-up/Divorce/Separation to realise the intricacies of both the legal process and the many layers of emotions involved in any family breakup. Solicitors are not Counsellors, neither are we ‘the kings men’ to put Humpty Dumpty relationships back together again. Sometimes, what is broken stays broken but our task is to walk the journey with our client, give appropriate advice and assist them in the decision making for the future.

The book identifies lists of useful dos and don’ts at the end of each chapter that are particularly relevant for the 24 hour a day living experience, for example “Top Ten Tips to hang on the fridge – Do be good to yourself – Do take exercise – Don’t beat yourself up -don’t involve the children – engage fully and positively in the process.” This book is not and does not claim to be an exhaustive legal tome on Divorce. What it is, is a guide to those entering the legal process or any alternative dispute resolution process – a way map for both the psychological and legal signposts along the road to a new and hopefully better place for them and the family.

My one reservation is that by the time our clients get to us they may not be in a space to acknowledge and understand the advices given or indeed to implement some of the excellent life skills recommended. As many of clients attend for a first appointment to obtain information about the different avenues available to them, this book will be extremely useful as a reference for such clients and hopefully be read by them before positions get entrenched on either side.

The title is also a little off putting for the chosen readership as it may, notwithstanding the survival plan subhead, appear to be too technical. However this is a small point as the book will, I expect, be recommended by solicitors who will point out the benefits to their clients of being well -informed . The glossary and the support organisations listed at the back I find particularly helpful and I would without hesitation recommend the book to all family lawyers anxious to understand the dynamics of family breakup so as to better advise and support their clients.

Joan O’Mahony
March 2014.

You can purchase the book online at the Cork University Press website.