6 Things You Need to Know About Being an Unmarried Parent
Unmarried parents are often misinformed about the legal position of parents who are not married to each other. For instance, there is a common mistaken belief that having the unmarried father’s name on his child’s birth certificate gives the father legal rights in respect of his child. Treoir, the National Specialist Information Service for Unmarried Parents and their children, highlights some of the key points to bear in mind.
- During Pregnancy
Some pregnancies can be a crisis – either from the start, or during the pregnancy. Talking to someone who is not personally involved can be very helpful. There are many free services around the country. For more information visit http://www.positiveoptions.ie.
- Registering the Birth of Your Baby
It is crucially important for a child that s/he has the names of both parents on the birth certificate. Children need to know as much as possible about both their parents so that they will have a good sense of their own identity and personal history.
At present Irish law does not require the name of both parents on the birth certificate of a child.
There are three important things to remember:
- Having the father’s name on the birth certificate does not give the father any guardianship rights in respect of his child.
- Having the father’s name on the birth certificate does not prevent the mother from getting One-Parent Family Payment.
- A child has a right to be financially maintained by both parents and to inherit from them once paternity of the child has been established. This applies whether or not the father’s name is on the birth certificate.
- Are You A Legal Guardian?
Guardianship means having a say in the major decisions of a child’s life, such as consent to medical treatment, choice of school and religion and whether the child can be taken out of the country. Many unmarried parents, including those living together, mistakenly believe that if the father’s name is on the child’s birth certificate, this gives him guardianship rights to his child. However, where a child’s parents have not married each other, the mother is automatically the sole guardian of her child.
An unmarried father can become a legal guardian in the following ways:
By agreement with the mother
The father must sign a statutory instrument form (S.I. No 5 of 1998) in the presence of a Peace Commissioner or Commissioner for Oaths with the mother.
By satisfying the cohabitation period
Following the commencement of certain provisions of the Child and Family Relationships Act 2015, a non-marital father will automatically be a guardian of his child if he has been living in a family unit with the child’s mother continuously for a year including not less than three months after the child’s birth.
This provision is not retrospective, so guardianship will only be acquired automatically where the parents live together for at least 12 months after 18 January 2016.
Going to Court
The non-marital father can apply to the local District Court to become a joint guardian of his child. While the mother’s views are taken into account by the court in making a decision, the fact that she may not consent does not mean that the court will refuse an order for guardianship. The decision of the court will be made with the best interests of the child being the first and most important consideration.
- If You Are Cohabiting
The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 came into effect on 1st January 2011. This Act introduced rights and obligations for qualified cohabitants under the Redress Scheme.
A qualified cohabitant is an adult who has been cohabiting:
- for at least 5 years or 2 years if you have a child with your partner, and
- is financially dependent on the other cohabitant.
Under the Redress Scheme, a qualified cohabitant can apply to court for a court order for compensatory maintenance, pension adjustment, property adjustment or provision from the estate of a deceased cohabitant.
Where one of the cohabitants is still married, neither of the cohabitants will be considered a qualified cohabitant unless the married cohabitant has lived apart from his/her spouse for at least 4 of the previous 5 years.
- Issues To Consider After Birth
Where paternity is in doubt, it may be necessary to establish paternity in order to pursue child maintenance or to support a case for access and guardianship. In Ireland there are many services available for DNA testing.
New enforcement procedures in relation to custody and access have been introduced to ensure that both parents can have a meaningful relationship with their child even if the relationship breaks down. These measures include allowing a court to require a parent who is persistently not complying with a court order for access or custody to attend a parenting programme or to give the other parent extra time with the child to compensate.
- Young parents
The Teen Parents Support Programme (TPSP) is a support service for young mothers, young fathers and their families, from pregnancy until the baby is 2 years of age. The TPSP, co-ordinated by Treoir, offers support and information in all areas of a young parent’s life including health, relationships, parenting, childcare, social welfare entitlements, education, training and any other issue the mother or father may be concerned about.
Treoir operates the National Specialist Information Service for Unmarried Parents and Children and those working with them. Treoir’s popular confidential phone service (Phone: 01 670 01 20 / LoCall 1890 252 084) provides a unique opportunity for parents to talk through their individual situation on a one-to-one basis with highly experienced and empathetic information officers.
For further information contact:
14 Gandon House, Lower Mayor Street, IFSC, Dublin 1
LoCall: 1890 252 084
Phone: 00353 1 6700 120