Custody, guardianship and access are all terms that relate to a parent’s relationship with their child. They can also be relevant to other adults who may not be biological parents but who are involved in the life or upbringing of a child.

The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 has brought in significant changes in several areas of family law. In particular guardianship, custody, access, maintenance, and succession rights have been impacted by this law.

Custody refers to the day-to-day care of the child.

Guardianship relates to the legal responsibility to make decisions and perform duties in respect of the child’s life and upbringing. Guardianship is a legal status that can be held automatically by the parents of the child or persons appointed guardians by the court.

Access refers to the right to maintain contact with a child through periods of visitation in order to foster or maintain a relationship with that child and such arrangements can, where appropriate, be made for extended family members.

The majority of applications for guardianship, custody and access are made to the District Court. For information on the application process, click here.

For information on custody and access concerns during the Covid-19 pandemic, click here.


  • Family Law and Children: This useful information booklet produced by the Free Legal Aid Centre gives a detailed but easily understandable account of the law in relation to custody, access and guardianship. This includes the identification of those with automatic legal status and responsibilities, often determined by the status of the parental relationship. The booklet also outlines the criteria for eligibility for legal aid. 
  • Further information on guardianship, custody and access is available on the Courts Service website. 


Organisation Telephone Email Website Address
One Family

Lo-call 1890 66 22 12   

Tel: 01 662 9212 Cherish House, 2 Lower Pembroke Street, Dublin 2
Legal Aid Board

Tel: 066 947 1000  

Locall: 1890 615 200 The Legal Aid Board, Quay Street, Caherciveen, Kerry
Free Legal Advice Centres

Tel:01 874 5690 

Locall:1890 350 250 13 Lower Dorset Street, Dublin 1
The Courts Service 01 1 888 6000  15 – 24 Phoenix Street North, Smithfield, Dublin 7
Citizens Information  0761 07 4000  260 drop-in locations nationwide. Find your local centre here.

Tel:+353 (0)1 6700120 

Locall:1890 252084  Treoir, 28 North Great Georges Street, Dublin 1

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF