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Family Law Solicitors

Fitzgerald’s children Bill outlines new steps on parentage

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Irish Times

by Fiach Kelly

Measures dealing with parentage in cases of assisted reproduction are contained in a Bill due to be approved by the Cabinet next week.

Minster for Justice Frances Fitzgerald is expected to publish the Children and Family Relationships Bill, which allows same-sex couples to adopt for the first time, once it is agreed by Ministers on Tuesday.

It is expected to be passed into law within little more than a month and its passage is seen as a crucial factor in the same-sex marriage referendum, due to be held in May.

Ms Fitzgerald will also publish an implementation Bill outlining the legislative changes to take place if the referendum is passed, such as phasing out civil partnerships.

The Children and Family Relationships Bill was initially intended to be enacted well before the referendum in order to clarify issues surrounding same-sex families which may arise in the campaign.

Unmarried parents

Its aims are to address the needs of children living with married parents, unmarried parents, a parent and a parent’s partner, and grandparents or other relatives who are parenting a child.

Ms Fitzgerald briefed the parliamentary Labour party, as well as Opposition spokespeople, on its contents on Wednesday, and also gave a presentation to Fine Gael TDs and Senators earlier in the week.

Among the new measures is a proposal to allow a mother of a child conceived through assisted human reproduction (AHR) to register the child jointly with their partner, rather than undertaking court proceedings to establish parentage.

“A birth mother’s partner can become the child’s second parent if s/he consented to the assisted human reproduction treatment, if the treatment was carried out in a clinical setting and if the donor clearly consented to be a donor rather than a parent,” a briefing note from Ms Fitzgerald says.

The Bill will also allow a child conceived through AHR to trace its genetic identity. It will also extend the rights held by fathers in respect of parental leave and maternity leave to second female parents.

Party whips

A meeting of the party whips on Wednesday agreed the Bill should be passed by Dáil as quickly as possible, but enough time should be allocated for debate.

The Cabinet is expected to agree the Bill at its meeting next Tuesday and it will be published immediately afterwards.

The Dáil will sit on February 20th and also on the following Monday if needed to get the Bill through its second stage debate. It will then go to committee stage and back to the Dáil for report and final stages, with the aim to have it passed by March 2nd. It will then go to the Seanad, and sources estimate it could take two weeks to pass through the Upper House.

Once signed into law it will in effect allow for two months of campaigning on the referendum, with the issues outlined in the Bill effectively settled. The referendum is expected to take place in the first two weeks of May, although there have been suggestions it may be pushed back to later in the month. However, one source said no substantial lobbying had begun on the Bill yet and this could slow down the legislative process.