The heads of the Children and Family Relationships Bill are likely to be published next month by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. The Children and Family Relationships Bill 2013 is intended to create a legal structure to underpin diverse parenting situations and provide legal clarity on parental rights and duties in diverse family forms. We have summarised ten points of interest from the Bill below:
- The Bill is a legal framework for family law issues such as guardianship, custody, access and the raising of children in the diverse family forms that are part of today’s society. These families may be made up of married families, co-habiting and civilly partnered couples as well as extended family members, such as grandparents, who may be caring for children. It also reflects the recent provision made in the Children’s Referendum in 2012 for constitutional change
- There is a need for improved supports for the courts in matters of family law and childcare cases in order to ensure that orders, made in the best interests of children, are complied with.
- It is intended to increase the number of non-marital fathers who are automatically legal guardians by providing that a non-marital father is a guardian of his child if he has been co-habiting with the child’s mother for at least a year before the child’s birth, and in situations where the cohabitation ends less than 10 months before the birth (if the relationship ends)
- It is intended that others in a parenting role with the child may apply for guardianship, be they civil partners, step-parents, those living with the biological or adoptive parents as well as those acting in loco parentis for a time. This is in instances where the child does not have more than two guardians.
- It is intended to establish that the best interests of the child is paramount in considering decisions on custody, access and guardianship.
- It is intended that provisions will be put in place to support parenting with penalties for parents who do not meet access or maintenance orders
- Guidance will be given to the court as to what constitutes the best interest of the child, including needs and views of the child, history of upbringing and care as well as having regard to any family/domestic violence and its impact on the safety of the child and other family members.
- Access will be simplified, removing the two stage process that currently exists for a person other than a parent seeking access to a child.
- Children aged over 12 must be consulted in relation to applications for guardianship, custody and access
- There are also proposals to look at making parent-related orders work, when a parent or guardian does not comply with court orders on custody or access to the child.
For further information on the Bill, take a look at the following link to the Department of Justice website: