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Family Law Solicitors

Bill proposes to tighten rules on parent role

Friday, 13 February 2015

The Irish Times

by Fiach Kelly

Parents who do not comply with court orders on custody and access to their children will face new compliance measures under a new Bill to be agreed by the Cabinet next week.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald is to bring the Children and Family Relationships Bill to Cabinet next Tuesday and it is expected to be published immediately afterwards.

The Bill was initially drafted by former minister Alan Shatter and it has been carried on by Ms Fitzgerald, who has made some of her own proposals, such as in the area of assisted human reproduction.

In a briefing note given to Opposition spokespeople and Government TDs earlier this week, Ms Fitzgerald outlined a number of other aspects to the Bill, including a “series of provisions on making parenting work”.

Relationship breakdown

“These provisions are intended to ensure that both parents can have meaningful relationships with their child even in a context of relationship breakdown,” the briefing note says.

“Measures are proposed to promote compliance with court orders on custody and access,” it adds.

“These include requiring a parent who is persistently flouting a court order to attend a parenting programme to compensate the other parent for time lost with the child.”

It is understood that, in practice, this would mean one parent could get double the amount of time with a child if the other fails to keep an appointment and is aimed at incentivising parents to deal with each other amicably in the case of a breakdown.

Another aspect of the Bill is allowing a parent to appoint a temporary guardian for his or her child, through a court-based process, “where the parent is suffering from serious illness or injury which prevent him or her from exercising his or her guardianship responsibilities in respect of the child”.

The court will also be able to specify limitations on the type of decisions to be taken by the temporary guardian and must also have regard for any limitations requested by the parent.

The Bill, which allows for adoption by same-sex couples, was initially intended to be enacted well before the same-sex marriage referendum in order to clarify family issues which may arise in the campaign. The Government hopes to have it signed into law within one month.