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Access is a common issue that arises in the context of divorce, separation, and other related issues.

Access means establishing/maintaining some form of contact between a child and other significant person as distinct from custody and guardianship.

Who can apply for access?

  1. Any person being a guardian of the child.
  2. A parent who is not a guardian of the child but who has a sufficiently close relationship to the child.
  3. A relative - defined as a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt of the child.
  4. A person with whom the child resides or has formerly resided.

Section 11 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964 as amended by the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 now affords grandparents, relatives, and certain other qualifying people rights to apply directly to the court for access.

Where an agreement on access arrangements cannot be reached by the parents themselves, the courts will decide. Access is determined in light of the ‘best interest of the child’ and that the child has a right to access with his/her parents. Close ties with non-resident parents, relatives and certain others are encouraged and the legislation reflects this by including provisions that allow a person to apply to court to gain access rights or to uphold rights that have already been granted where this is in the best interest of the child.

The Application Process

A parent (and non-parent) may apply to the court for its direction on any question affecting the welfare of their child. This application can include establishing the right of access to the child and can be contested by the parent with custody of the child. The child, to the extent possible given his or her age and understanding, will have the opportunity to make his or her views on the matter known to the court.

The majority of applications for access are made in the District Court. Contact your local District Court for further information on how to apply for access.

For relevant court forms, click here.

You can represent yourself in court, however it is advisable to get legal advice and representation. Contact details for solicitors is available here. To check your eligibility for legal aid, contact your local law centre.

Enforcement Orders

The Guardianship of Infants Act 1964, as amended by the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 (section 18A), provides that where a parent/guardian has been granted access rights and it is unreasonably denied, that parent/guardian may apply to the court for an enforcement order.

An enforcement order may provide for one or more of the following:

  • That the applicant be granted additional access to the child.
  • That a parent/guardian be reimbursed for any necessary expenses sustained by the applicant in attempting to exercise his or her right to access.
  • That either or both parties in order to ensure future compliance, attend one of the following: a parenting programme, family counselling, or receive information on the possibility of mediation.


The Citizens Information website provides a basic overview of the law relating to access, the application process, and how the law operates in respect of same-sex couples and grandparents.

Treoir also provides useful information on access and custody, including the methods of obtaining such rights, such as through the courts or other methods of alternative dispute resolution.


Organisation Telephone Email Website Address


Tel:+353 (0)1 6700120 

Locall:1890 252084 14 Gandon House, Custom House Square, IFSC, Dublin 1
The Legal Aid Board

Tel:+353 (0)66 947 1000 

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

Tel:+353 (0)1 8745690 

Locall: 1890 350 250 13 Lower Dorset Street, Dublin 1
Family Mediation Service

Tel:+353 (0)1 8747446   Family Mediation Service, 9 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin 1
Citizens Information 0761 07 4000 260 drop-in locations nationwide. Find your local centre here

University College Cork

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