The legal term “parental responsibility” – referred to in Ireland as “guardianship” - refers to the possession of all rights and duties relating to a child which have been given under law or by the court, or by virtue of legal agreement. The holder of parental responsibility possesses rights of custody and access amongst others pertaining to the welfare of the child.
Generally, married parents of a child hold parental responsibility jointly over their child. Where parents are not married the mother is the general holder of parental responsibility but the natural father may be appointed as a guardian by agreement between the parents or by the court.
Yes. The Health Service Executive, through their Child and Family Service division TUSLA, can apply to the District Court for such care orders necessary for children under eighteen years. In exceptional circumstances, the court may appoint a guardian to exercise the functions of parental responsibility where a parent is unwilling or unable so to do. A Testamentary Guardian may be appointed upon the death of a parent where one has been elected by virtue of a will or codicil or may be appointed by the court. In the absence of such election, the Health Service Executive, through their Child and Family Service division TUSLA, can apply to the District Court for such care orders necessary for children under eighteen years if the parents of a child are deceased or incapable of taking care of their child.
Where the parents of a child divorce or “split up”, custody and access arrangements can be decided by agreement by the parents. Where agreement cannot be reached, parents can apply to court where a judge can make custody or access orders. Where both parents are guardians of the child, this is not affected by divorce or splitting up, although the guardianship of a non-marital father may – in highly exceptional circumstances and only where the welfare of the child requires it – be terminated by the court.
Parents who conclude an agreement on the question of parental responsibility are required to put same before the court and obtain an order reflecting such to make the agreement legally binding. The court must be satisfied that the rights of the child are adequately protected by any agreement and can refuse to make an order where it is not satisfied that either or both parents are discharging their obligations towards the child. Such an agreement cannot terminate the guardianship status of either parent.
Individuals can have recourse to non-legal methods of conflict resolution such as mediation or through counselling.
The judge may decide upon all such issues pertaining to the welfare of the child including but not limited to issues as to guardianship, custody and access. See also Q. 4 and Q. 5 above – the guardianship of married parents or a natural mother may not be terminated by the court although the court may place conditions on a person’s exercise of their parental responsibilities.
No. While the parent who has sole custody of a child has the ability to decide upon the day to day care and control of the child, a non-custodial parent who is the child’s guardian possesses a right to be consulted on all matters affecting the welfare of the child including, but not limited to, where the child should be educated and where the child should live.
Joint custody is granted to parents in the absence of deep hostility between parties and enables them to mutually make decisions pertaining to the substantial welfare of the child and regarding its day to day care. This does not mean that each parent has a right to equal time with the child; rather, it ensures that both parents have corresponding duties and obligations to the child.
Normally parties who wish to lodge an application on parental responsibility do so before the District Court; however, for certain applications ancillary to matrimonial proceedings it may be necessary to apply to the Circuit or High Court. The High Court has exclusive jurisdiction in issues pertaining to Child Abduction.
Yes. It is possible to apply to the court ex parte, which means without notice to the other side, where circumstances would place a child at risk should an applicant put the respondent on notice in the usual manner.
Yes. Legal Aid is obtained through the Civil Legal Aid Scheme. This scheme is means tested.
Yes. It is possible to appeal a decision of the court of first instance i.e. the court where the proceedings commenced; however, it is usually not possible to appeal the judgment of any appellant court.
Individuals attempting to enforce a decision on parental responsibility should consult the rules of the respective courts or institution. Excluding ex parte applications, it is necessary to inform the respondent of your intention to take any procedure with a view to enforcing a judgment.
Please see reply to Q. 14.
The High Court, which has full and original jurisdiction.
The Protection of Children (Hague Convention) Act 2000 gives legal force to the 1996 Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children which applies in this area; further, Council Regulation (EC) No. 2201/2003 concerning Jurisdiction and Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Matrimonial Matters and Matters of Parental Responsibility (Brussels II bis) is also applicable in this area.
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