Child and Guardianship Act 2016
The new Act commenced on January 18th 2016 overhauls the systems and how it views children. The system now considers the views of children and grants more rights to single parents, especially fathers, and to same-sex couples. It also outlines a new class of people who can apply for guardianship. The new Act modernises the law in this area and emphasises the importance of the children’s opinions.
Following the 2015 referendum, Article 42A was put into the Constitution to protect the best interests of the child. This must be a top ranking priority for the courts who must consider a list of factors. The importance of certain factors will be considered in each case individually. The views of the child expressed freely or through an expert report will depend on the age and maturity of the child. Other factors include the relationship between the child and each parent, the physical, psychological and emotional needs and upbringing of the child, any special characteristics and the capacity of each person to care for the child.
The changes to Guardianship Act include ‘automatic’ guardianship for unmarried fathers from January 2016. The father must live with the child’s mother for 12 months consecutively and at least three must be after birth. However, the father should still seek a formal declaration from the courts. Those who are married, or are a civil partner, to a parent can apply once they have lived with the parent for over three years and shared responsibility for over a year. Temporary guardians with limited responsibilities can now be appointed as guardians and relatives including siblings, grandparents, uncles and aunts can be appointed. The act has overhauled the old system creating a modern, more flexible systems which reflects the change in society.