Seeking guardianship by the father of a child in a non-marital situation is a common application before the District Court in Dolphin House, Dublin 2.
The reason is simple: under the existing law the father of a child in a non-marital relationship is not automatically a guardian of the child, although the mother is.
The father of the child is only automatically a guardian where
- He was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth or
- If the parties marry after the birth of the child.
What does guardianship mean?
Guardianship is concerned with the overall care of the child in a global sense and will involve having a say as to
- Permission of the child to marry
- Passport forms
- The general upbringing of the child
- The child’s medical care
- The child’s education
- Acting on behalf of the child in legal proceedings
- Custody of the child
- Any property of the child until the child reaches the age of 18.
The natural father, thanks to the Status of Children Act 1987 (section 12), can now apply to the District Court under section 6A of the Guardianship of Infants act 1964 to be appointed a guardian of the child by the Court.
The first and paramount consideration of the Court in considering such an application will be the welfare of the child (sect. 3 Guardianship of Infants Act 1964).
Guardianship by consent
However where the mother of the child consents there is a procedure under Section 2(4) of the Guardianship of Infants act 1964 where both parties can swear a statutory declaration agreeing for the father to become a joint guardian.
This will not involve a court appearance and can be carried out by the parties themselves by filling out the appropriate form under the Act and can be done regardless of the living arrangements of the parties-that is, they do not have to be living together. (If the father is not registered on the birth certificate then it is likely that the declaration will be rejected by the Registrar pending his registration as father on the register maintained under the Civil Registration Act 2004.
However despite the relative ease with which you can carry out this declaration procedure you should always seek legal advice before signing one.
If you have any questions arising from the above do not hesitate to contact us. You might also be interested in family law solicitors Dublin.