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New bill will “recognise different family forms”

The revised general scheme of the Children and Family Relationships Bill was published today.

Image: Happy Family via Shutterstock

THERE HAS BEEN widespread welcome of the release of a new bill that will change how parentage and different families are handled.

Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Justice and Equality, today announced that the revised General Scheme of the Children and Family Relationships Bill has been approved by Government.

Fitzgerald said that the bill would begin being drafted soon and called the legislation “important”.

“These proposals will bring legal clarity to parentage, guardianship, custody and access for diverse families, thus benefiting a wide range of families in Ireland. They put the interests of children centre stage in those decisions with profound implications for a child’s life.”

The bill proposes to:

  • Modernise the law regarding the parental rights of children living in “diverse family forms”
  • Establish that the best interests of the child are paramount in decisions on custody, guardianship and access;
  • Set out how parentage is to be assigned in cases of assisted reproduction
  • Extend automatic guardianship to non-marital fathers who have lived with the child’s mother for at least 12 months, including 3 months following the child’s birth;
  • Enable civil partnered or cohabiting couples to be eligible jointly to adopt a child;
  • Allow civil partners, step-parents, those cohabiting with the biological parent and those acting in loco parentis for a specified period to apply for guardianship and custody
  • Enable members of the wider family to apply for access to the child;
  • Put in place a series of provisions on making parenting work

The scheme differs from the originally published scheme in that it makes provisions for donor-conceived children, drops surrogacy from the bill and extends adoption rights to cohabiting couples.

Protection

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) says that the bill will give “better protection” to families and children.

Director Mr Mark Kelly said:

“Everyone who genuinely cares about children and families will welcome the publication of this draft Bill, which will modernise family law by placing the best interests of the child at its core.”

Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said:

“The Bill brings legal clarity to the many children born outside marriage or who are being cared for in blended families. The Bill ensures that courts must make decisions in their best interests and outlines how judges will consult with children in relation to family law matters.”

Kieran Rose of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen) says that the bill will ensure that the best interests of children are protected.

“We welcome the publication of the revised General Scheme of the Bill. The commitment of the Government and of Minister Fitzgerald to update parenting legislation to recognise the different family forms in Ireland is of critical importance to a wide range of families, including lesbian and gay headed families” said Kieran Rose, GLEN Chair.

Read: Almost 3,000 children are waiting over a year for speech and language therapy

Read: ‘If children are being left without a home, what are any of us doing here?’

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