| 11.8°C Dublin

Getting facts right on fathers' rights

In the article 'Unmarried dads to be named on birth certs' (Irish Independent, December 21), Dearbhail McDonald confuses certain aspects of family law by stating that "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".

This is incorrect for two reasons: First of all, married parents are entitled to shared custody unless they separate, after which mothers will invariably retain custody and fathers will be obliged to financially maintain the family while being allowed limited access or contact.

This was recently reflected in a High Court judgment where a father was restricted to seeing his children for a limited time with the judge ordering that: "The respondent (the father) should not have the option to look after the children when the applicant (the mother) is out of the jurisdiction for more than one day, or when she is away from the family home for more than one day, as this would give rise to undesirable and unpredictable negotiations leading to differences on an irregular but frequent basis."

He went on to claim that "equality of parenting in this context should be assessed in terms of quality rather than quantity".

Secondly, an unmarried mother is entitled to sole custody regardless of the father's position as guardian. An unmarried father who is granted guardianship does not have any automatic right to custody.

Apart from the above, it is important to note that a married father's right to act as a guardian on behalf of his children jointly with the mother is widely ignored.

Schools, hospitals and doctors etc will accept the consent of one parent even though the consent of both parents is required, if the couple is married.

Granting an unmarried father the non-existent rights of a married father is simply window dressing and of no benefit to him or his children.

Cathal Garvey
Navan, Co Meath

Irish Independent