Important Changes in Family Law – Guardianship, Access, Custody and Maintenance

By September 6, 2016 No Comments

The Child and Family Relationships Act 2015 brought significant changes to the area of Family Law in Ireland.  While some of the changes have not been enacted certain provisions relating to guardianship, access, custody and maintenance took effect from 18th January 2016.


Significant changes to the law on Guardianship have been introduced.  Under Irish Law, where parents are unmarried, the mother is the sole automatic guardian.  However, under the 2015 Act an unmarried father will automatically be a guardian of a child if he has lived with the child’s mother for 12 consecutive months, including at least 3 months living with both the mother and the child following the child’s birth.  The 12 month period of time only starts to run from 18th January 2016 when the changes were introduced.  Despite this important change, it may still be necessary for a father to apply to the court for a declaration that he is the  legal guardian of the child.

Furthermore, persons who are not the parents of a child will be able to apply for guardianship.

This includes:-

  • civil partners of the parent of the child;
  • cohabitants who have lived with the parent for 3 years and shared day to day responsibility for the child for at least 2 years;

Temporary guardians can now be appointed by the court where a child’s guardian is unable to act, for example, if they are suffering from a significant illness.


Access and Custody

Prior to the 2015 Act only parents and grandparents could apply for access to a child.

Grandparents had to firstly apply for leave of the court to make an application. The new Act has abolished this two stage process for grandparents and permits other relatives to apply for access. A person who has lived with a child may also apply for access.

Spouses, civil partners and cohabitants may apply for custody of a child where they have lived with the child’s parent for 3 or more years and shared day to day responsibility for their care.






The court may make a maintenance order in respect of the child against a Cohabitant who became a guardian of that child or against a civil partner of the parent. 

The best interests of the child are paramount and the new Act sets down the factors to be taken into account by the courts when deciding on issues of guardianship, access and custody.  The court will be able to ascertain the views of the child when deciding what arrangements are in his/her best interests.  An expert may be appointed by the court to prepare a report and to convey to the court the views of the child.  The costs of the expert report will be borne by the parties.


Hughes Murphy Solicitors can assist you with all your Family Law queries.  

      Please call uon 1800 910 912 or submit our Contact Form

      to receive a call-back if you want to discuss how the new

                  Family Law Act applies to you.