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Tuesday 24 October 2017

Unmarried dads to be named on birth certs

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

UNMARRIED fathers will automatically have their names placed on their children's birth certificates under laws proposed by the Government's legal watchdog.

The Law Reform Commission has proposed that all fathers, including unmarried fathers who currently have to apply to the courts to become legal guardians of their children, should have their names automatically registered.

The reform is designed to boost the rights of children to know who both their parents are.

Unmarried mothers who claim that they do not know who the child's father is would be obliged to sign a statutory declaration claiming "I don't know".

And men who allege they have not fathered a child will be afforded a 28-day period to lodge any objection to their name being placed on a birth certificate.

The commission has proposed, in draft legislation to be published today, that unmarried fathers should have joint parental responsibility or guardianship, a move which has been broadly welcomed by the Unmarried and Separated Families of Ireland.

"It is a point in the right direction," said Ray Kelly of the USFI.

"Joint parental responsibility is important, but it is still not as important as custody and access. We need a much clearer debate on the issue of the custodial parent who has the overriding say," said Mr Kelly, who has claimed more than nine out of 10 married women are still awarded custody by the courts.

At present, married parents are entitled to shared custody of their child as joint guardians and the mother of a non-marital child is entitled to sole custody if the father has not been made a guardian.


But the new Children and Responsibility Law, if passed, would give non-marital fathers the entitlement to maintain and properly care for a child, the right to apply for a passport for the child and the right to make decisions about where a child will live, a child's religious education, health requirements and general welfare.

The commission has confirmed that the issue of day-to-day care or custody and access should be defined in legislation and would still fall for consideration by the courts where this is contested by parents.

The commission also recommended that parental responsibility be extended to civil part- ners, step-parents and grandparents and said that the far-reaching proposals do not offend the elevated status of the family based on marriage as protected in the Constitution.

"The proposals are consistent with the Constitution but reflect the changing patterns of family relationships that have emerged in Ireland in recent years," said Ray Byrne, director of research at the commission.

"They are child-centred. This report reflects an appropriate recognition of the rights of children to know both parents. Parenthood comes with rights and responsibilities and this report represents the flipside of the rights afforded to parents in the Constitution," he added.

Irish Independent

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