Parenting FAQ

Who is the guardian of a child of unmarried parents?

The mother is the automatic guardian of a child of unmarried parents.

Since the commencement of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, the unmarried father of a child is also the automatic guardian if he has lived with the child’s mother for 12 consecutive months (since 18 January 2016) including for 3 months after the birth of the child.

Is an unmarried father an automatic guardian of his child if his name is on the birth certificate?

Although there is a common perception that an unmarried father is the guardian of his child if his name appears on the birth certificate, this is not the case. If an unmarried father does not qualify for automatic guardianship under the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, he can apply to the District Court to be appointed a guardian by the court or he can sign a statutory declaration with the child’s mother to become a joint guardian with her.

What is co-parenting?

Co-parenting is when a relationship breaks down but the parents adopt a practical and reasonable approach to parenting in a difficult situation. Although the circumstances of every case of co-parenting will vary, it does attempt to ensure that the children are with each parent a few days every week. Co-parenting works on the basis that a child needs a relationship with both parents and parents also need to spend time with their children.

If a relationship breaks down, what action can be taken where access to the children is frustrated?

If an agreement cannot be reached between the parents regarding access and guardianship, the non-custodial parent can apply to the District Court for access and/or guardianship of his/her children. In the majority of cases, the District Court will grant access to the non-custodial parent. Access can be sought and granted even where guardianship status is not secured. All such orders will only be made by the court where they are in the best interests of the child.

Family Law Information Research Group

School of Law, Áras na Laoi, University College Cork,

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