Irish politician defends family relationships bill

News|April 12th 2014

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

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Comments(10)

  1. Anon1 says:

    Never going to happen because it makes too much sense.

  2. Andrew says:

    Making men (generally) responsible for the maintenance of the woman they did not marry – well, Marilyn, you and I are not going to agree but I can see it making men less liable to making any commitment at all.

    But making them liable for the “stepchildren” – the children of the ex-partner by a previous marriage or relationship – is preposterous. It can only make it more difficult than ever for a woman with “baggage” as children are sometimes called to find any new relationship at all.

    If they want to do it in Ireland, good luck to them, but here, no thanks.

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Dear Andrew
      In English law on divorce the parties are both potentially liable to maintain “the children of the family” even if the children aren’t the biological or adopted children of both parties. The extent to which each spouse is actually liable is another point.
      Regards
      Marilyn

  3. Andrew says:

    Marilyn: I know!

    But there is no such liability on the break-up of a relationship. Even if the one of them can assert some sort of proprietary claim against the other it will never extend to maintenance for the child of an earlier relationship, which is what Mr Shatter seems to be suggesting for Ireland. No thanks. Would you want that?

  4. Luke says:

    “*automatic “guardianship” rights for unmarried fathers as long as they lived with the mother for at least 12 months before the child’s birth.”
    ==============================================

    Wow, what man with a functioning brain is going to start a cohabiting relationship with a single mother in those circumstances ? It is hard enough for single mothers to date as it is.

    I am always amazed at the lack of thought that seems to go into the response that is likely to happen when coercive and unreasonable legislation such as this is introduced.

    • Luke says:

      What we actually need are automatic DNA tests at birth to conclusively establish paternity – it’s as simple as that.

    • Stitchedup says:

      If I understand this correctly, isn’t this a good thing for unmarried fathers??

      I would have thought most unmarried fathers would want automatic guardian rights for their children??

      • Luke says:

        Not really StitchedUp, normally a couple will discuss this anyway, but this states if the woman has an affair and the child is not yours even if you find this out later on you will STILL be on the hook for child maintenance.
        If the child is yours and for some reason she doesn’t want you to have rights you can force those rights with a DNA test.
        .
        The devil will be in the detail but note the mention of child liability which becomes automatic and they specifically mention people who are not biologically related to the child – just in the house at the time.

        I think this is about child maintenance – an attempt to get better access to any “deep pocket” in the house.

        • Stitchedup says:

          I haven’t read the document so will take your comments as fact. This raises as question for me:

          Why is it so difficult for politicians, the judiciary etc to draw something up that is fair and makes common sense???

          Why does the common sense of granting an unmarried father guardian rights for his child when has been living with the mother for at least a year before the birth of their child be confused with the ludicrous situation of making an unmarried man liable for a child that isn’t his??

          Why do these supposedly elite geniuses with fantastic minds come up with such trash??

  5. Luke says:

    Well StitchedUp, I don’t see the cock-up that you see, I think it’s deliberate, I see this as getting access to a man’s money dressed up as rights for him. Read it yourself if you don’t believe me, and as always – follow the money.
    .
    If they started talking about enforcement of contact rights then that might be different – but I ask this simple question again – how many women in the UK or Ireland have gone to gaol for denying contact ? I doubt it is very many or for very long.
    How does our court system put out 82 orders for a man to see his daughter over 12 years and it still doesn’t happen and his ex-spouse is not in gaol ? How did it get past 1 year ? Do you see Ireland as producing something radically different to the UK on this ?

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