the best interests of children
Brian brings a range of skills, experience and qualifications gained over more than thirty years, to his work with couples, children and families following breakdown, separation or other major difficulties in relationships. He is a chartered psychologist (AFPsSI), and registered family therapist (FTAI), psychotherapist (ICP & EAP), and family mediator (MII).
He has specialist training as a personal & family consultant in collaborative family law, guiding couples through the practical and psychological journey involved in separation. In all types of parental separation scenarios he is committed to facilitating, wherever possible, non-adversarial decision-making about the parenting arrangements. In cases where agreement is not possible he provides court-mandated expert reports regarding custody and access, under Section 47 of the Family Law Act and Section 32 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964/2015.
In the years prior to qualifying as a psychologist in 1998, Brian worked in social care, qualifying in 1983 with distinction in that discipline. This included work as a lecturer in child care and placement supervisor with DIT where he was also on the training and curriculum Board of the Social Care program.
Psychology & Family Therapy
In 1998 Brian completed clinical training as a psychologist with a Masters in Psychological Science at UCD and the Mater University Hospital Department of Child and Family Psychiatry where he also trained as a Family Therapist. His master's thesis was on re-constructing co-operative parenting after separation. It was largely from this that evolved his interest in helping parents who are in conflict, together with their legal representatives and the courts, to work towards better outcomes.
Family Counselling & Mediation
In addition to his half-time private practice, Brian worked simultaneously with Crosscare adolescent and family counselling service for over twenty years as a clinical psychologist. He also spent three years with the Family Mediation Service, managing their start-ups with centres in both the Tallaght and Marino.
Brian trained in collaborative practice in family law in 2008 as a personal and family professional. This is a co-operative alternative to adversarial court proceedings, especially with a view to successful post-separation joint parenting. Brian was a Board member of the Association of Collaborative Practitioners, developing this model and promoting the complementary roles of legal, clinical and dispute resolution professionals.
Family Courts - summary
Brian has gained extensive experience over the past twenty years as an expert witness and clinical consultant to the family courts, providing reports under the Child Care Act 1991 (Sections 20 and 26) and the Family Law Act (Section 47). He is currently engaged with colleagues in developing best practice for the recently implemented "Section 32" child custody assessment reports under the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015.
Domestic abuse, sexual abuse & addiction
Brian has completed numerous training courses in gender-based and domestic violence, child sexual abuse and abuser profiles, alcohol and drug addiction, elder abuse, and bullying. He has been appointed by the courts in proceedings under Domestic Violence and Child Protection legislation to assess safety issues in such cases. This adds a dimension of insight to his work regarding subtle forms of mis-use of power in relationships as well as more obvious forms of abuse, as well as the challenges posed to families through addiction.
Brian has been a persistent campaigner for children's rights for many years. He founded the Alliance for Children in Crisis in the 1980's which contributed to the impetus for enacting the 1991 Child Care Act, the eventual 2012 Constitutional amendment on childrens rights and the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015. This legislation greatly strengthens the "best interests" principle with regard to children in separation, provides for their views to be taken more fully into account, and supports the child's relationships with various significant adults in their lives.
Voice of the child
The child's right to be heard in proceedings regarding their welfare has been a core aspect of Brian's practice, including pioneering work on this issue. He co-authored with Geoffrey Shannon "Giving Children a voice" in 2001 which at its launcing conference was endoresd by then Attorney General Michael McDowell, EU Commissioner David Byrne and Suprene Court Judge (later Chief Justice) Susan Denham. This right is now enshrined in the Constitution and specified in the 2015 Act.
Wardship & elder care
Brian's has been appointed by the High Court in cases of wardship involving disputes over child and vulnerable elderly subjects, to independently represent their best interests. He is familiar with the issues the arise in the care of elderly parents, including circumstances that can give rise to family conflict.
Consultancy in Child and Family Law
On behalf of the HSE as external consultant, Brian jointly piloted the national implementation of Section 20, Child Care Act 1991, now fully operational. This enables the courts to require welfare reports from Tusla (formerly from HSE) on children whose parents have come to court over custody, if the court is concerned about possible risk to a child's safety or welfare. He served for six years as a member of the statutory expert advisory panel of the Children Acts Advisory Board, assessing cases of high risk children for referral to the High Court for decisions about their care and protection. He has represented the voices and views of many children, as their court-appointed independent guardian ad litem in public law proceedings in the District, Circuit and High Courts, including care-planning for placement abroad. This has included identifying many cases of short-fall in care-planning for children in care due to the limitations of public resource provision in Ireland, and appointments by the High Court to direct judicial review proceedings against the state seeking more appropriate provision.
Resolving child custody conflict
Brian has encountered separated couples and their families at all levels of co-operation and conflict. He is acutely aware that while family litigation is often necessary as a last resort, it can un-necessarily heighten hurt and defensive hostility – especially regrettable where there will be ongoing shared responsibility for parenting. Where there is a willingness by the parties to collaborate he works as a neutral facilitator with the couple, or with one of the parties as his primary client opposite a colleague assisting the other party, in the collaborative process. This can include their solicitors, (For this joint service, see Collaborative Law.)
Where communication has broken down he offers intermediary assistance to one of the parties with a view to opening space for resolution. He is thoroughly committed in all these contexts to facilitating better outcomes through full or partial non-adversarial alternatives. Where necessary, this includes assisting the courts with decision-making through "Section 32" or "Section 47" assessments. He can assist parents and/or their solicitors in establishing the parameters for such reports, and offers a preliminary screening service for this purpose. This is sometimes best done by agreement, prior to court application.
Importance of the first steps
Brian is often consulted as a first port of call when one or both parents wish to clarify their method of choice for planning or negotiating separation and / or post-separation parenting. Whether this is through personal therapeutic work, mediation, collaborative law or court-mandated assessment, his priority is to facilitate a process that protects the personal wellbeing of both parties while especially working towards outcomes that are in the best interests of children.