Major reform in family law

Major reform in family law

Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Justice and Equality has received Cabinet approval for the Children and Family Relationship Bill.

The Children and Family Relationships Bill was finally signed off at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting and it will now go to the Dáil, where it will be taken at second stage next week, before going to committee stage.

So who will this Bill affect?

With more than 170 sections, the Bill addresses issues such as extending guardianship, and custody and adoption rights to different family situations. For example, where there is no available or willing guardian, the Bill will allow a relative to submit an application for custody if they have looked after the child for a year.

Guardianship for child’s custody, or day-to-day matters, can also be applied for if a spouse, civil partner or partner has lived with a parent for three years and has looked after the child for two years.

Regulations are also proposed under this Bill for surrogacy, embryo donation; the screening of embryos for serious genetic diseases or for sperm and egg donation; and research in this area.

In addition to setting out parental rights in the area of assisted human reproduction (AHR), provisions have also been made in this Bill for children born through donor-assisted AHR and those being parented by same-sex couples. The Bill will also provide for the establishment of an AHR register for those children wishing to trace their donor.

Guardianship rights will also be automatic for non marital fathers if they have lived with the mother continuously for a year, including three months after the birth.

Civil partners and cohabiting couples who have lived together for three years will also now be able to jointly adopt.

All political parties appear to be broadly supportive of the Bill and it will go back to the floor of the House for report and the final stages and will be enacted by 24th March.

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