Thousands of dads not on birth certs avoid child payouts
Dail to debate rights of unmarried fathers
Published 18/03/2010 | 05:00
MORE than 4,000 birth certificates are issued every year without a father's name, new figures reveal.
And hundreds of absent fathers cannot be forced to cough-up child maintenance because their names are not on any birth certificate
In almost one in every 10 cases reviewed by the State's Maintenance Recovery Unit last year, a determination order to recover maintenance could not be issued because the father's name was not on the birth certificate.
At the moment, there is no automatic registration of an unmarried father, nor does an unmarried father have an automatic guardianship role.
New figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal that 4,102 of the 76,113 births registered in 2008 did not contain the father's name.
However, some 1,759 of these births were later re-registered to add a father's details.
In 1,032 cases where a father owed child maintenance, the State could not oblige him to pay up as his name did not appear on the birth certificate. Over 13,191 non-resident fathers or "liable relatives" were reviewed by the Government last year for child maintenance.
The figures emerged as Social and Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin warned that unemployed and low-waged absent fathers may be forced to pay maintenance.
Those earning less than €18,000 annually or those living on social welfare benefits are exempt from the payment.
According to the campaign group 'One Family', half of one-parent families have never received any financial contribution from the non-resident father.
The issue of unmarried fathers' rights is set to become the focus of considerable Dail debate when Labour tables its Guardianship of Children Bill.
It is seeking automatic registration of the father's name on birth certificates and automatic guardianship for unmarried fathers.
Ms Hanafin said she believes that the father's name should be on the birth certificate. But she said there may be good reasons why a mother may not wish to include a father's name on the certificate.
The minister said the issue needs to be the subject of a "good healthy debate".
Labour's social affairs spokeswoman Roisin Shortall said the legislation governing guardianship is 50 years old and no longer meets the current needs of Irish society.
She proposes the parents of a child would both be treated as guardians, irrespective of whether they are married or not, and that a father's name is automatically added to the child's birth certificate. The Labour Party has argued that children have the right to know who their parents are.
In 1964, the number of births outside of marriage was less than 5pc, compared to the most recent statistics showing they are in the region of 32pc.
In some urban areas, the number of births outside of marriage is close to two thirds.
Treoir, the National Federation of Services for Unmarried Parents and their Children, last night welcomed anything which would improve the situation for unmarried fathers.
Assistant chief executive Margot Doherty said fathers currently don't have a right to get rights. "They only have a right to apply for rights," she said.
Under the present system, if a relationship breaks up, the child can be deprived of any contact with its father.
Labour's Kathleen Lynch claimed young men who are deprived of contact with their child can feel "excluded and alienated" from society.
The proposed legislation, to be debated in the Dail, would give effect to the rights of non-marital families under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights