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I have recently split up with my partner of two years. We were not married and she had one child with a previous partner, and she gave birth to our daughter last year. I have heard the law has recently changed in relation to guardianship. Can you please advise me.

In general when a child in Ireland is born outside of marriage, the mother is the sole guardian and the position of the unmarried father is uncertain. If the mother agrees, the father can become a joint-guardian once both parents sign a statutory declaration in the presence of a Peace Commissioner or a Commissioner for Oaths.

However, if the mother does not agree that the father be appointed as joint guardian, the father must apply to the court to be appointed as a joint-guardian. Although the mother’s opinion is taken into account, it will not decide whether the order is refused. The court will decide what is in the best interest of the child.

You do not need legal representation to apply for guardianship of your child. Staff in your local district court will help you through the process.

There is new legislation on this matter which introduces changes such as;

  • first, a step-parent, a civil partner or a person who has cohabited with a parent for at least 3 years may apply to the court to become a guardian once they have co-parented the child for more than 2 years.
  • second, an unmarried father will automatically be a guardian if he has lived with the child’s mother for 12 consecutive months, including at least 3 months with the mother and child following the child’s birth at any time before the child turns 18 years old.

If you have any further queries, please contact your solicitor who will bring you through the process in more detail.

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