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A guardian is the person who is legally entitled and obliged to fulfil the parental rights and duties in relation to the upbringing and care of the child. This includes the duty to maintain and properly care for the child and the responsibility for decision-making concerning the child’s life and upbringing, e.g., education, religion, and the general rearing of the child. A guardian has, amongst others, responsibility to consent to medical treatment and the issuing of a passport.
You can apply for guardianship up until the child reaches 18 years of age.
A person may be an automatic guardian or may apply to be appointed as a guardian. You may also be appointed temporary or testamentary guardianship.
On this page
Who is an automatic guardian?
- Unmarried mother of a child
- Married parents of a child
- Male and/or female adopters of a child under an adoption order
- The father who has been lawfully appointed a guardian in another State
Since the commencement of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 on 18th January 2016, the following persons will also be automatic guardians:
- Parents of a child whose marriage has been annulled since the birth of the child.
- An unmarried father who has lived with the child’s mother for 12 consecutive months (since 18 January 2016) including at least 3 months after the birth of the child.
- Civil partners or a cohabiting couple who have jointly adopted a child under an adoption order.
Applying for Guardianship
Who can apply?
- An unmarried father can apply to the court to be appointed a guardian.
- Unmarried parents can complete a statutory declaration whereby the mother agrees for the father to have guardianship status. For further information on guardianship by agreement, click here.
Now that the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 is commenced, the following persons may also apply to be appointed a guardian:
- A person aged 18 years or older who on the date of the application, is married to a parent of the child, and has shared with that parent responsibility for the child’s day-to-day care for a period of more than 2 years.
- A person aged 18 years or older who on the date of the application, is in a civil partnership with a parent of the child, and has shared with that parent responsibility for the child’s day-to-day care for a period of more than 2 years
- A person aged 18 years or older who on the date of the application, has been for over 3 years a cohabitant of a parent of the child, and has shared with that parent responsibility for the child’s day-to-day care for a period of more than 2 years
- A person aged 18 years or older who on the date of the application, has provided for the child’s day-to-day care for a continuous period of more than 12 months, and the child has no parent or guardian who is willing or able to exercise the rights and responsibilities of guardianship in respect of the child.
- A relative aged 18 years or older in relation to the child means grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt.
How to apply?
Applications for guardianship are generally made in the District Court. Contact your local District Court for information on how to apply for guardianship.
Click here for relevant court forms concerning guardianship.
Contact details for solicitors is available here. To check your eligibility for legal aid, contact your local law centre.
Testamentary guardians can also be appointed through wills by an existing guardian of a child.
It is important for all guardians (especially a sole guardian) to appoint a testamentary guardian to act on their behalf in the event of their death before the child reaches 18 years of age.
A qualifying guardian can nominate a person to act as a temporary guardian if he/she is unable to exercise his/her guardianship rights through serious illness or injury.
A qualifying guardian is a person who is the parent and has custody of a child, or a person who is not the parent of the child but has custody of him/her.
The nomination of a person to be a temporary guardian must be in writing and must specify the rights and responsibilities that the temporary guardian may exercise. The form to nominate a temporary guardian can be found here.
The nominated person must then apply to the court for guardianship rights if necessary.
Treoir provides useful information and resources on guardianship, including automatic guardianship, the guardianship rights of unmarried fathers, temporary guardianship, testamentary guardianship, and the removal of guardianship rights.
The Citizens Information website provides information on guardianship in relation to cohabiting couples, including automatic guardianship, guardianship by agreement or through the courts.
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