Co-Parenting – Mark Donovan


With the unavoidable breakdown of relationships, irrespective of the nature of the union, challenging issues surrounding the shared parenting of children will inevitably arise. Positive co-parenting/shared parenting can be an amicable solution to a challenging and emotional situation.

Whilst this may seem like an obvious approach to be taken by two adults on a breakdown of their relationship, in reality it can be a difficult situation to navigate. Reactions can include hurt, disappointment and bitterness towards the other parent, which may result in behaviour that has an adverse effect on their children. Evidently the more confrontation and arguments that occur between the parents the more it will affect the wellbeing, mental health and happiness of their children.

Traditionally an unmarried father with guardianship status may not have been awarded any custodial rights, leaving him with a sense of reduced rights as a parent.. This position changed somewhat when The Children Act 1997 amended s.11 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964, allowing the courts to order that parents share joint custody of their children. However in practice, the courts may be slow to order joint custody if the parents can not be civil to one another and thus a positive co-parenting approach will not only improve the chance of securing a joint custody order but most importantly will make such an arrangement workable into the future.

A more recent endorsement of the importance of surrounding children with the legal stability of engaging with both parents on a day to day basis was demonstrated by the relevant provisions of the Child and Family Relationship Act 2015, whereby non-parent family members can apply to become the guardian of a child. Evidently both the courts and the legislature are in favour of broadening the law to allow parents to have joint custody as well as unmarried fathers. The Act also permits other family members to become guardians of their children and/or grandchildren, in order to acknowledge the reality of their circumstances of care and always where such orders are in the best interests of the children. As a result it makes the possibility of co-parenting of children after a relationship breakdown more attainable and tangible.

Co-parenting/shared parenting can be an amicable, reasonable and a mature approach to ensure children are spending time with both parents who love their children equally. Parents need to remove their personal hurt from the situation and concentrate on their childrens happiness. It is generally accepted that in most instances, two parents are better than one and it is typically in the best interests of everyone involved, that the children spend time with both sets of families after their parents break up. It is to be applauded that this is now facilitated and indeed encouraged by Irish law.

To conclude, children need love and support from both parents and especially when the parents relationship has broken up. Irish law now recognises the lived reality of post breakdown relationships and provides legal recognition and stability in such circumstances.

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