Law Reform Commission of Ireland Report on Legal Aspects of Family Relationships
Among the specific recommendations made in the Report are:
- new terms “parental responsibility”, “day-to-day care” and “contact” should replace the terms guardianship, custody and access currently used in the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964. The new terms would give a clearer indication of what is actually involved in this part of family law; and remove any misunderstanding that parental rights involving children exist without corresponding responsibilities. It would also ensure that the terms used in Ireland would be in line with those used in many other States and in international instruments to which Ireland is a party.
- parental responsibility (guardianship) should be defined in legislation as including the duty to maintain and properly care for a child, the right to apply for a passport for the child and the right to make decisions about where a child will live, a child’s religious and secular education, health requirements and general welfare.
- day-to-day care (custody) should be defined in legislation as including the ability of the parent, or person in loco parentis, to exercise care and control over a child on a day-to-day basis, to protect and to supervise the child.
- contact (access) should be defined in legislation as including the right of the child to maintain personal relations and contact with the parent or other qualifying person on a regular basis, subject to the proviso that contact must be in the best interests of the child.
- mothers and fathers (including non-marital fathers) should have automatic joint parental responsibility (guardianship) for their children.
- there should be automatic joint registration of both parents on a birth certificate (intended to reinforce the right of a child to know their parents).
- legislation should facilitate the extension of parental responsibility to civil partners and step-parents. The Commission recommends that civil partners and step-parents could obtain parental responsibility by way of an agreement with the other parties who have parental responsibility for the child or by application to court.
- where parental responsibility is extended by court order the court shall have regard to, among other factors, the wishes and best interests of the child and the views of other parties with parental responsibility.
- the ability to apply for day-to-day care (custody) should be extended to relatives of a child, persons in loco parentis and persons with a bona fide interest in the child in circumstances where the parents are unable or unwilling to exercise parental responsibility.