askonefamily | Child and Family Relationships Act 2015

On Monday the 18th January 2016, some parts of the Child and Family Relationships Act 2015 were commenced. These changes in legislation may have a direct impact on those parenting alone, sharing parenting and parenting after separation so the following information on Guardianship, Custody, Access and Maintenance may be relevant to you:


  • For an unmarried father this means that he may automatically become a guardian of his child if he has lived with the mother on a continuous basis for 12 months and at least 3 of these months must be after the birth of the child.

This 12 month period only takes effect from the date this was enacted, so from the 18th January 2016 and is not retrospective.

  • For other family members, such as grandparents, civil partners, step-parents and others who have acted in “loco parentis” (in the place of the parent) of a child they may apply to court for guardianship. The requirements for this is that a person is in a relationship, either in marriage or civil partnership, or has lived with the parent of a child for over 3 years and has shared the day to day care of the child for at least 2 years.
  • If a person has cared for a child on a day to day to basis, continuously for 12 months and there is no parent or guardian able or willing to exercise the rights and responsibilities for the child then they may apply for guardianship, so for example this may be a grandparent caring for their grandchild or a foster parent caring for a child.


  • For grandparents the Act means that they can now apply directly to the District court for access with their grandchildren, if they do not already have access.


  • A court may make an order for custody following an application by a person other than the mother or father. This may be a person who is a relative of the child; it may be a person with who the child has resided with, or if the person is married to, in a civil partnership with or who has cohabited with the parent of the child for at least 3 years and has been involved in the day to day care of the child for at least 2 years. A person may also seek custody where the child has resided with this person who has had day to day care of the child and who does not have a parent or guardian who is able or willing to take on the responsibilities of being the guardian.


  • A maintenance order may be sought, requiring the cohabiting partner of a child’s parent to pay maintenance for the child, provided they are a guardian of the child.

Enforcement Orders

  • These relate to access and custody whereby if a court order is made in respect of custody or access and this is unreasonably denied or not taken up then a parent or guardian may apply for an enforcement order. Such an order may require that:

A parent or guardian, or both attend counselling, mediation or a parenting programme

That additional access may be granted

That a parent or guardian be reimbursed for expenses as a result of the denial of access or the refusal to take up access.

Any decision made by the court will be made in the best interests of the child and the court will consider the views of the child where possible given his/her age and understanding.



Parenting | 10 Ways to Plan and Enjoy Special Days With Your Child

Special OccassionsWhen relationships break down the greatest challenge is getting past the conflict and moving on. As parents, we must remember that our children always come first. This can be hard to see when you are trying to plan for a big occasion. Many parents need ongoing support to help them to agree on parenting issues.  For big events in your child’s life it can be helpful to engage with a mediator well in advance to help ensure the day and the months leading up to it can run smoothly. Special occasions in a child’s life are often the most dreaded days for people who are sharing parenting. For many young children the excitement is taken away from such events and replaced with the worry of how their parents will get on or reach an agreement. Children may be inclined to say they don’t mind any plans offered to them as they know they will hurt one parent by objecting or agreeing.

As parents, we must remember that our children’s needs come first. It is important that we remind ourselves that we want these events to be a positive memory for our children. How can we make them a positive experience? How do we help our children get truly excited about them? Here are some tips to help you plan and enjoy these special occasions with your child:

  1. It is your child’s day, not your day. Ask your child what they would like to do. Be open to hearing what they are saying and then start planning.
  2. Children need to feel that it is safe for them to express their opinions. At times they choose to go along with their parent’s wishes as they were met with conflict when expressing their own opinion in the past. It is important that we try to reassure our children that it is safe to be honest with us.
  3. Talk with children about the plans; ask if they are happy with them. If not, ask them what they are not happy with and discuss how things can be changed.
  4. Ensure the other parent is fully aware of the plan for the day. Try to meet with them several months in advance to share your ideas and reach agreement.
  5. Although you may have a new partner, do not displace the role of the biological parent on the day. As many churches have limited space, parents should be first counted for the seat. It is important the step parents and partners respect this.
  6. Try to be generous with the other parent as these events last all day. Remember to share the ceremonies, as they only happen once, and then share the day. For some families this will mean a joint event, for others the day will be split.
  7. Involve extended family. Having a joint celebration can be great and it is great when parents can set aside their differences to do this. Ensure that all members of the family are told that the day is not about the separation, but about the child. Special days are not the appropriate time to bring up family issues.
  8. Ideally both parents will have a part in the preparations. Sometimes one parent seeks the other to pay for the costs involved but they do not want to share the experience. This is not fair. Arranging a day for everyone to go out to buy the gift or the clothes could be a great way to include all parties in the process. Try to trust each other and remain conscious of your child’s needs.
  9. At times it will not be possible to involve both parents in the child’s life. Talk with children about this and explain it to be them carefully. Often these are occasions that children start to question their identity, where they came from and why their family is the way it is. Support them to feel pride in their family unit and help them to understand the diversity of families.
  10. Enjoy the day. One successful day with your child and the other parent can really give you the confidence to do it again.

This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.

LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on this topic Monday 8 June from 11am-12pm on NEW One Family Parenting Group. Join in and post your question.

Next you might like to read 10 Ways to Successful Shared Parenting

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email


Christmas Candles

10 Ways to Achieve Successful Shared Parenting Over Christmas

Christmas Candles 150x150Christmas doesn’t have to be a difficult time for parents who do not live together and share parenting of their child. There are, of course, things that will need to be worked out. What is most important is to do this well in advance, agreeing to solutions and a plan. Agree your plan now in November, to help ensure a happy, fun-filled Christmas for all members of the family, centered around your child. Read on for this week’s parenting tips which explore how parents can achieve successful shared parenting over the Christmas season.

  1. Start thinking it through and planning now.
  2. Plan with your child. Talk with your child about Christmas and explore with them that it lasts for more than one day.
  3. Tell them that both you and their other parent love them and enjoy time with them at Christmas. Ask your child how they would like Christmas to look. Talk with them about the options available.
  4. Try to hear your child in this. Most parents prefer to have their child with them on Christmas Day, and in many separated families it is not possible. See Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day all as Christmas. You will have to agree if each year one of you has the children with them on the 25th and the other parent has them on the 24th or 26th.
  5. Talk with your child’s other parent. Ask them what they hope Christmas will look like and then start to negotiate on contact. Use assertive communication skills. Try not to jump in with a no straight away to what they hope for. Think of your child’s needs and how best you can both meet them. Don’t have these discussions in front of your child.
  6. Children love Christmas – if they don’t have parents arguing over them. All the gifts in the world won’t help if your child is distressed or worried. Talk and plan in advance and avoid conflict. Give each other space to think about what the other parent wants, then talk again about your shared plans.
  7. Explain to your child what will happen and that you and the other parent will try your best to ensure they have the Christmas they hope for. Make sure your child has the information they need in advance.
  8. Children are not going to object to two Christmases. Santa can leave gifts in both homes. Santa knows, of course, that some children have two homes. Families comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes.
  9. Talk about buying the gifts early on. Both parents usually want to be involved in this. Can each of you buy your own gifts from your child’s list and agree to give them on the one day or over two days? Often children get too much on the 25th – maybe they would appreciate receiving the gifts more spread out. Children need to share the excitement with both parents.
  10. If you need help to communicate with each other, seek professional support from services such as One Family’s Mediated Parenting Plans or Parent Mentoring services so you can make plans for a Christmas that everyone can look forward to.

Next you might like to read 10 Ways to Successful Shared Parenting.

This article is part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips, and is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly. Coming soon: 10 Ways to Explain an Absent Parent and 10 Ways to Nurture Your Role as a Stepparent.

LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on shared parenting over Christmas on Monday 10 November from 11am-12pm on One Family’s Facebook page. Join in and post your questions.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and advice on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email

Positive Parenting for Changing Families | The Family Law System

During National Parents Week 2014 we’re asking, “What’s the important issue for you around positive parenting for changing families?” Watch this short video where Donagh McGowan, Solicitor and incoming Chair of the Law Society Family Law Committee and member of the Family Law Court Development Committee, talks about his important issue: how to address the failings of the current family law system.

Donagh was a speaker at our Positive Parenting for Changing Families Seminar on Tuesday 21 October in Dublin Castle. Other speakers included: Stella Owens, Centre for Effective Services, Chair of Special Interest Group on Supporting Parents; Helen Deely, Head of HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme; and Niall Egan, Jobseekers and One Parent Family Policy Section, Department of Social Protection. The panel was chaired by Dr Anne-Marie McGauran, NESC, and One Family Board member.


Featured Service | Parent Mentoring

Every month a member of the One Family services team explains more about the particular supports they offer. This month, Parent Mentor Niki Williams writes about One Family mentoring supports available to all parents.

Parent Mentoring is a service where a parent can safely talk one to one with a trained professional about any concerns they may have with their family and child relationships. With sensitive guidance and practical suggestions, the mentor supports a parent to identify what is working well for their family and what could be changed.

laptop and headphones for the new generationsRaising children can be a really challenging job yet most of us don’t evaluate our family relationships until a crisis forces us to. When living with a situation daily, it can be difficult to ‘see the wood for the trees’. Whether facing tantrums with toddlers, fussy eaters, children who won’t stay in their beds, unhappiness at school or a grunting teenager, it’s okay for a parent to need a listening ear and a helping hand sometimes. Parents always work hard to do their very best for their children.

A Parent Mentor will support a parent to take time to reflect and reach a new perspective on what’s happening. This is useful for any parent regardless of the age and stage of their child/ren.

Niki Williams

Niki Williams, Parent Mentor

I’m a Psychiatric Nurse, Counsellor, Parent Mentor and Trauma Therapist by training. I’ve also experienced challenging life events. In my experience, getting support doesn’t always mean solving the problem. It can mean maintaining a loving relationship even in the face of that problem. With increased knowledge about why parents and children behave the way they do, a more peaceful and enhanced home life can result for every member of the family.

One Family’s Parenting Mentoring service is now available in Cork, Dublin and Wicklow with additional regions being added later this year. This is a low-cost service charged on a sliding scale from €20-€60. To book, call 01 662 9212 or click here to complete a short booking form.

Next, you might like to read what One Family Counselling Support Worker, Lisa Maguire, wrote last month about our services for Young People in Care.

Shortfalls for Children of Separated Parents in Report on Draft Children & Family Relationships Bill

Press Release

Shortfalls for Children of Separated Parents in

Justice Committee Report on Draft

Children & Family Relationships Bill

(Dublin, Wednesday 9 July 2014) One Family – Ireland’s organisation for one-parent families and parents sharing parenting – welcomes the publication of the report from the Justice Committee on the Children & Family Relationships Bill 2014 tomorrow. With over 40 years campaigning for legal recognition and support for the wide diversity of families that children in Ireland live in, One Family believes that this Bill is long overdue. The focus now should be to ensure that it is passed as quickly as possible to meet the urgent needs of children and parents though it is disappointing to note that some important issues such as ancillary reports to courts and child safety were not highlighted in the report.

Karen Kiernan, One Family CEO comments: “While this Bill is progress, it is disheartening that the Justice Report contains no mention of the need for ancillary services to the family law courts, especially Child Contact Centres which are necessary to ensure safety of children in contentious custody disputes. One Family published an evaluation of its pilot Child Contact Centre scheme in March this year and highlighted this need at the Committee hearing on 9 April. The Courts do not yet have access to professionally conducted family assessments in order to make evidence-based, child-centred decisions that will be safe, enforceable and fair. This has yet to be addressed for the safety of children.”

Stuart Duffin, One Family Director of Policy & Programmes, comments: “This report is a missed opportunity in a number of respects.  Government places ever greater emphasis on the importance of children having meaningful relationships with both their parents yet the report fails to explore ways to mainstream services to support this in the face of family separation, especially for low-income families. When parents separate, benefits and allowances attach wholly to one parent or the other, with often the non-resident parent – most usually the father – becoming ‘invisible’ other than as a source of income.  The report is not addressing this imbalance which has huge consequences for separated parents and their well-being, and that of their children.”

The Children & Family Relationships Bill will need to acknowledge the need for greater cooperation of services aimed at building broad local partnerships. It should result in quality, professional supports to cover the wide range of needs of families during separation and after, and when accessing the family law courts. It should ensure that legislators are equipped to make evidence-based decisions with children’s needs at the centre of these decisions.

Otherwise, while a step in the right direction, additional costs will be incurred to the State down the line while the Bill fails to fully deliver for children of separated families.

One Family’s Child Contact Centres Key Learnings can be read here:

The Executive Summary of the Evaluation can be read here:


About One Family

One Family was founded in 1972 and is Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to those working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services. These services include the lo-call askonefamily national helpline on 1890 622 212, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals. One Family also promotes Family Day and presents the Family Day Festival every May, an annual celebration of the diversity of families in Ireland today ( For further information, visit

Available for Interview

Karen Kiernan, CEO | t: 01 662 9212 or 086 850 9191

Stuart Duffin, Director of Policy & Programmes | t: 01 662 9212 or 087 062 2023

Further Information/Scheduling

Shirley Chance, Director of Communications | t: 01 662 9212 or 087 414 8511

Barnardos and One Family launch Contact Service for Children and Separated Parents

Press Release

Barnardos and One Family launch much needed

Service for Children and Separated Parents in Ireland

Dublin, 2 April 2012A new service for children whose parents are separated and who are unable to agree safe and appropriate arrangements for contact was launched today by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, TD. The first-of-its kind in Ireland, the Child Contact Centre service provided by Barnardos, Ireland’s leading independent children’s charity, and One Family, Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families, is operating on a two year pilot in three locations in Dublin: Ballymun, Clondalkin and Tallaght.

A Child Contact Centre is a safe, friendly and neutral place where children can spend time with the parent(s) they do not live with. The aim of the service is to enable children, where possible, to grow up enjoying a positive relationship with both of their parents, even when they don’t live together. Specialist contact centres for children and families involved in marriage and relationship breakdown are common in many countries throughout Europe including Northern Ireland.

The Barnardos & One Family Child Contact Centre service provides a range of contact options including, supervised contact – where contact is supervised for one family at a time; supported contact – where contact is provided for a number of families at the same time, and handover contact – where an arrangement is agreed for one parent to bring their child to the contact centre to be collected by the other parent, without the parents needing to meet. Parents are offered additional family supports like counselling and a key worker to assist them in addressing the issues that led to them to needing to use a Child Contact Centre service, so that they can move on to self-arranged contact over time.

Karen Kiernan, Director of One Family explained, ‘The need for the service was identified in research carried out by One Family (Supporting Child Contact: the Need for Child Contact Centres in Ireland – Family Support Agency, 2010) which clearly identified a significant level of unmet need in relation to children of separated parents. The report shows that based on international provision, Ireland could require 37 such centres throughout the country.’

‘During the course of that research we consulted parents, legal professionals and family support workers and there is overwhelming support for such services. They are particularly vital in situations where there are high levels of conflict between parents, where a parent has had little previous contact with his or her children, or where there are concerns over the safety of the child,’ continued Ms Kiernan.

Francis Chance, Assistant Director of Children’s Services at Barnardos said, ‘The service responds to a need for families who, up until now, have been largely invisible, experiencing a high level of pain, hurt and distress. Family Law courts and judges have had very limited choices as to where to refer parents and children who are having difficulties managing contact. The Child Contact Centres fill that vacuum.”

‘Unfortunately many children have to walk an emotional tightrope while the most significant adults in their lives are deeply entrenched in conflict. By supporting families to manage contact, we are relieving children of a heavy burden, one they often carry on their own. In many cases it can be difficult for the parents to shift their focus away from their relationship to that of their child’s needs. Our focus is the best interests of the children and we look to align the parents as partners working on behalf of their child’s needs. The service brings huge benefit to the parents too, enabling both parents to develop a positive relationship with their child and giving them the peace of mind to know that their child is safe and supported during their contact with the parent they do not live with. Without the provision of specialist supports for separated parents and their children, there is a risk that more children will lose touch with the parent with whom they do not live, most often their father,’ Mr Chance continued.

The Barnardos & One Family Child Contact Centre pilot service is now fully operational in Ballymun, Clondalkin and Tallaght, with significant demand for the service from families, many of whom are involved in court proceedings. Since opening its doors, the service is actively supporting 28 families to create opportunities to have quality time together, some of whom having been out of one another’s lives for many years.

Parents participating in the service have said about their children:

He is much more settled and has developed a good understanding of having two homes and does not see his mum and dad fighting anymore.”

I think the staff take good care of the children and parents too.  They are very interested in the children’s needs and try to make the time with the parents very enjoyable for all concerned.”

I am delighted, my son is a year and a half now and this is the most time I have spent with him getting to know his buzz…” (after first visit)

Speaking at the launch, Frances Fitzgerald, TD said, “As Minister for Children & Youth Affairs, my ultimate goal to seek to achieve the very best for Ireland’s children. Positive interaction between parents and children is pivotal to help achieve this. The contact centre pilot project is an excellent example of what can be achieved when we work together in the best interests of children and families, especially those in difficult or crisis situations.”

”I wish congratulate all involved in getting this project off the ground including One Family and Barnardos, the HSE, the Family Support Agency, Ballymun Regeneration and my own Department of Children and Youth Affairs”

The pilot of the Barnardos & One Family Child Contact Centre service is supported by a team of 28 volunteers who have been trained to assist in the provision of supported contact. The service is funded by: The Department of Children and Youth Affairs, The Family Support Agency, The Health Service Executive and Ballymun Regeneration.

Ms Kiernan concluded, ‘We very much appreciate the co-operation and support we are receiving from Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, her Department and our other funders. We look forward to rolling out of this much needed service throughout the country, in the future.’

Anyone can make a referral to the service by contacting Barnardos & One Family Child Contact Centre at or on 01 4032085/89/80 on Tuesdays from 9.30am – 1pm.

Mr. Chance concluded, “It has been an intensely positive and rewarding experience for the children involved and their parents. We look forward to discussing our interim evaluation findings with our funders later this year.”

The service is also available to children who are living in the care of the Health Service Executive and who need support to have contact with their parent(s).


For further information or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson:

  • Contact Hilary Fennell, One Family – 087 2359515
  • Contact Irene Lawlor, Barnardos – 086 3980441

Note to Editors:

For more information on the Child Contact Centres see or

Summary of Supporting Child Contact: the Need for Child Contact Centres in Ireland – Family Support Agency, 2010) available here

About Barnardos

Barnardos supports children whose well-being is under threat, by working with them, their families and communities and campaigning for the rights of children. Barnardos was established in Ireland in 1962 and is Ireland’s leading independent children’s charity.

About One Family

One Family has been providing specialist family support services to people parenting alone and sharing parenting for 40 years.  Services include parenting and skills training, counselling, parent mentoring and national information supports.