The following categories may apply  for orders for domestic protection.

  • spouse of the respondent,
  • a person who has lived with the respondent as husband and wife for six of the twelve preceding months;
  • a parent of the respondent where the respondent is aged 18 years upwards and is not dependent;
  • a person aged 18 years or upwards if residing with the respondents in a non-contractual relationship;

The Health Service Executive may apply for a safety order on behalf of any of the above persons.

Additional Applicants

By the legislation in relation to civil partners and cohabitants in 2010 and by the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 the applicant may be

  • the civil partner of the respondent or a person who is a party to a civil partnership that has been dissolved;
  • a person who is not the spouse or civil partner of the respondent, is not related within the prohibited degrees of relationship but lived with the respondent in an intimate and committed relationship prior to the application for a safety order;
  • is a parent of the respondent and the respondent is a person of full age who is not, in relation to the parent, a dependent person;
  • being of full age, resides with the respondent, in a relationship the basis of which is not contractual or is a parent of a child whose parent is the respondent.

The 2011 Act provides that qualifying applicant also includes a parent of a child whose other parent is the respondent. This in effect covers unmarried parents who do not reside together.

The 2011 Act extends the provisions to include persons in a same-sex relationship who are not civil partners but have lived together for a period of at least six months during the nine months preceding the application.

Criteria for Barring Order

The criteria in respect of grant of a barring order are higher than those in respect of a safety order because the order is more far-reaching.

The qualifying criteria for an applicant for safety order are broader than that for a barring order. A person over 18 and not residing or residing in a non-contractual relationship is not entitled to apply for a barring order but may seek a safety or protection order.

There is a statutory test applicable where the person is not a spouse, A a co-habiting person seeking a barring order must prove that he or she has lived with the respondent as husband and wife for at least six of the previous nine months. Similarly, in relation to an application by a parent/a child, the applicant must have a legal or beneficial interest in the property, which is at least equivalent to that held by the respondent.

The court must consider the safety and welfare, both applicant spouse and dependent children, in relation to which the respondent is in loco parentis, where the defendant resides at the property concerned.

Where the applicant for a barring order, is a cohabitant or parent, the above test applies in respect of the applicant’s claim in respect of the property in respect of which sole rights of occupancy is sought. They must have equal or better beneficial rights. This was deemed necessary from a constitutional compliance perspective.

Safety Order

The onus of proof is lower for a safety order. It may be granted where there are reasonable grounds for believing that the safety or welfare of the applicant or a dependent person so requires. It requires the respondent not to use or threaten to use violence against molest or put in fear the applicant or a dependent person.

The respondent is not necessarily removed from the family home. If the parties do not reside together, the order may prohibit the respondent from attending at the place where the defendant resides. It does not however require that he or she leaves property.

The safety order may be put in place for up to five years.

Interim Protection

Interim protection may be granted in respect of a barring or safety order. An interim barring order may cause a person to be removed from his home on an ex parte unilateral application. The legislation envisages that this may happen only in exceptional circumstances where necessary and expedient in the interests of justice.

Barring orders that are too broad do not allow for sufficient speedy chance for the respondent to challenge where there is number of adjournments, may breach due process and fair procedures. The requirement to protect a person from physical violence or fear of physical violence while legitimate must not be the subject of overbroad protection. The Constitutional rights of a respondent must be protected and vindicated. The abridgement of and delimitation of rights must be proportionate.

The Supreme Court held that the failure of the 1996 Act to provide a fixed period of relatively short duration in which an interim barring order, to be unconstitutional where it was not subject to prompt review. In the particular case, it resulted in the forcible removal of the applicant from the family home and company of his children, on the basis of allegations in respect of which he had no opportunity to be heard;

It treated him as having committed a criminal offence resulting in a possible custodial sentence in the event of noncompliance and made him  liable for arrest without warrant. Each of this happened without the possibility of compensation from the applicant.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court held that the failure to provide for a time limit on the interim barring order was unconstitutional. The Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act 2002 provided that an interim barring order heard on a unilateral basis must be the subject of an opportunity to contest the matter bilateral hearing within eight days.

Protection Order

A protection order requires that the person concerned shall not use or threaten to use violence against molest or put in fear the applicant or a dependant. The provision has been held to be constitutional even in the case of an ex parte/unilateral order, because the safety order does not affect the property rights of the respondent and accordingly, is subject to less stringent scrutiny from a Constitutional perspective than a barring order.


Breach of a safety order, barring order, interim order or protection order is an offence. The person concerned, the respondent is subject on summary conviction to a fine up to €1,970 or at the discretion of the court to imprisonment for a term up to 12 months or both.

It is also an offence when such a barring or interim order is in force, to prevent or refuse the applicant or a dependent person concerned from entering and remaining in the place to which the order relates.

Other Family Orders

The court may in the course of an application for a barring order, without the necessity for separate proceedings, hear matters in relation to Guardianship of Infant Acts, maintenance orders under the Family Home Protection Act or under the Child Care Act.

Child Care Act & HSE

In proceedings under the Act, where it appears to the court that it may be appropriate for a care order or a supervision order to be made under the Child Care Act in respect of the dependent person, the court may of its own motion or on application of persons concerned, adjourn proceedings and direct the HSE to undertake an investigation of the circumstances of the dependant. The court may give directions in relation to care and custody in the interim. It may make a supervision order under the Child Care Act, while the investigation takes place.

The HSE may take proceedings on behalf of a party entitled to apply for relief. The court has discretion in relation to whether to make an order on foot of an application. The HSE may take proceedings if it

  • is aware of an incident or a series of incidents which causes it through its officers to be concerned regarding safety or welfare of a person;
  • has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is subject to molestation, violence or threatened violence or has been put in fear for his safety or welfare;
  • is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing the person would be deterred or prevented as a consequence of molestation, violence or threatened violence by the respondent or fear of the respondents in pursuing an application for a safety order or barring order on his own behalf and having ascertained insofar as reasonably practicable, the wishes of the person concerned.


Proceedings, as with other family proceedings, are held otherwise than in public. The legislation provides that officers of the court, parties, legal representatives, witnesses and such other parties as the judge may allow, are permitted to attend, be present in the court.

There is no specific right for others to attend. The courts have in practice allowed a so-called McKenzie Friend to assist a party in the course of hearings in proceedings. The McKenzie Friend may be allowed to attend, a non-represented litigant in some cases, to assist him take notes and quietly make suggestions.

However, the court must be sensitive to the general statutory provisions which require the in-camera rule to apply in family cases. There must generally be evidence that a fair hearing, cannot be otherwise secured, in the sense of the constitutional right to fair procedures without assistance.

Following some cases, the Civil Registration Act 2004 provides that nothing contained in legislation is to operate to prohibit a party to proceedings concerned from being accompanied in court by another person subject to the approval of the court, subject to such directions as it may give. This may permit the court to allow a party to be accompanied by a friend to provide support and reassurance.


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Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

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