Irish minister Alan Shatter has defended a draft bill which would provide legal rights and responsibilities for a wide range of families not adequately addressed by current legislation.
Provisions of the Children and Family Relationships Bill, which he introduced, include:
*allowing couples in civil partnerships to adopt children.
*automatic “guardianship” rights for unmarried fathers as long as they lived with the mother for at least 12 months before the child’s birth.
*a new child maintenance liability for unmarried partners, step parents, and civil partners if the family breaks up.
Speaking at a conference held to introduce the legislation, the Minister for Justice and Equality said:
“We cannot afford to regain outmoded legislation which treats some children less favourably than others.”
The bill would address the “huge gaps and anomalies” that exist in current Irish legislation in relation to single parents, cohabiting couples and civil partners, he said.
He denied claims that it would “downgrade or devalue” the traditional family.
Tanya Wallace of the Children’s Rights Alliance said Irish law did not reflect current realities, such as around one third of children being born to unmarried parents.
Step parents also face challenges and cannot parental consent for medical or school issues, she noted.
Photo of Alan Shatter by European External Action via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence