· Key provisions of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 to commence on 18th January

· Minister says reforms recognise the increasing diversity of family life.

· Step-parents, civil partners and cohabiting partners will be able to apply to become guardians of a child or for custody

· A child’s best interests will be the paramount consideration for the court in proceedings on guardianship, custody or access.


18 January 2016

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD, has today signed an Order to commence key provisions of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 relating to guardianship, custody and access.

Minister Fitzgerald confirmed that “landmark reforms to family law in Ireland will come into effect on 18th January, affecting guardianship, custody and access.

“These reforms deliver on the Government’s commitment in the Programme for Government to modernise family law to accommodate the realities of family life. They offer 21st century solutions for 21st century issues.”

Some of the key reform to commence today include:

· A person other than a parent may become the child’s guardian.

· A parent’s spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of not less than 3 years will be able to apply for custody where s/he has shared parenting of the child for 2 years. A grandparent or other relative will be able to apply to court for custody of a child where s/he is an adult who has undertaken the child’s day to day care for more than 12 months and the child has no parent or guardian willing or able to act as guardian.

· Relatives of a child such as grandparents or those acting in loco parentis will be able to apply to have access to children more easily in the context of relationship breakdown.

· A child’s best interests will be the paramount consideration for the court in proceedings on guardianship, custody or access.

· The court can impose enforcement orders where a parent or guardian has been denied custody or access.

· A child co-parented by civil partners will have the same protections as are enjoyed by a child of a family based on marriage

· A maintenance responsibility may be imposed on a cohabiting partner for a partner’s child where the partner is a guardian of the child.

In addition, for the first time, unmarried fathers will automatically become guardians of their children if they meet a cohabitation requirement. An unmarried father who cohabits for 12 months with the child’s mother, including 3 months following a child’s birth, will automatically become the child’s guardian. This provision is not retrospective, so guardianship will only be acquired automatically where the parents live together for at least 12 months after 18 January 2016.

The Minister stated: “These reforms recognise the increasing diversity of family life. They take a child-centred approach, making a child’s best interests the paramount consideration for a court in family law cases.”

“In particular these changes in law recognise that many children are being reared by step-parents or by a parent’s cohabiting partner. Step-parents, civil partners and cohabiting partners will be able to apply to become guardians of a child or for custody. It will be easier for grandparents and other key people in a child’s life to apply for access.”


Minister Fitzgerald concluded: “These reforms recognise the crucial role of parents and the need for a child to maintain meaningful relationships with both parents.”

Ends…/


Note for Editors:
The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 (Commencement of Certain Provisions) Order 2016 today commences specified provisions of Parts 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12 and 13 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015.

These provisions relate primarily to guardianship, custody, access and maintenance.

The main provisions that come into effect today, 18th January 2016, are as follows:

· A non-marital father will automatically become the guardian of the child if he lives with the child’s mother for at least 12 consecutive months including 3 months after the child’s birth. This legislation provides the first mechanism in Irish law conferring automatic guardianship of a child for certain non marital fathers. This provision is not retrospective: only cohabitation after the commencement date will be taken into account.

· A person other than a parent may become the child’s guardian. A person will be able to apply to the court to be appointed as a child’s guardian if married to or in a civil partnership with the child’s parent or if s/he has cohabited with the child’s parent for over 3 years and if the person has shared responsibility for child’s day-to-day care for more than 2 years.

· It will also be possible for the court to appoint a person as a child’s guardian if that person has been responsible for the child’s day-to-day care for over a year and if no parent or guardian is willing to assume the responsibilities of guardianship.

· The powers of court-appointed guardians will generally be limited to decisions on day-to-day matters. The decisions reserved to full guardians are decisions on the child’s place of residence, his / her religious, spiritual and cultural upbringing and on medical matters, placement for or consent to adoption of a child and on the issue of a passport for a child.

· It will be possible for a guardian parent to nominate a temporary guardian for his / her child through a court-based process if the parent is suffering from serious illness or injury which would prevent him or her from exercising his or her guardianship responsibilities. The court will appoint the temporary guardian and will have the power to limit that person’s responsibilities, taking account of any limitations imposed by the parent.

· A parent’s spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of not less than 3 years will be able to apply for custody where s/he has shared parenting of the child for 2 years. A person can also apply for custody if s/he has parented the child for a year and if there is no parent or guardian willing or able to exercise the powers and responsibilities of guardianship.

· A grandparent or other relative will be able to apply to court for custody of a child where s/he is an adult who has undertaken the child’s day to day care for more than 12 months and the child has no parent or guardian willing or able to act as guardian.

· Relatives of a child such as grandparents or those acting in loco parentis will be able to apply to have access to children more easily in the context of relationship breakdown.

· A child’s best interests will be the paramount consideration for the court in proceedings on guardianship, custody or access.

· The court can impose enforcement orders where a parent or guardian has been denied custody or access. These may include requiring that he or she get compensatory time with the child, that his or her expenses be reimbursed or that one or both parties attend parenting programmes, family counselling or receive information on mediation.

· A child co-parented by civil partners will have the same protections as are enjoyed by a child of a family based on marriage. The court will be able to take into account the needs of a dependent child of a civil partnered couple regarding the shared home. The court will also be able to order a civil partner to pay maintenance for the support of a dependent child of the civil partners, including where the child is the child of only one of the civil partners.

· A maintenance responsibility may be imposed on a cohabiting partner for a partner’s child where the partner is a guardian of the child.