Brendan C<br /> is a common issue that arises in the context of divorce, separation and other related issues. Access typically means establishing/maintaining some form of contact between a child and other significant people as distinct from Custody and Guardianship.

Who can apply for access?

  1. Any person being a guardian of the child.
  2. A parent who is not a guardian of a child but who has a sufficiently close relationship to the child.
  3. A relative – defined as a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt of the child.
  4. A person with whom the child resides or has formerly resided.

Access arrangements can be agreed by parents without the use of the courts service but when access is Court directed it can include terms that all parties may not agree with fully.  Access is determined in light of the “best interest of the child” and that the child has a right to access with his/her parents.Close ties with non-resident parents, relatives and certain others are encouraged and the legislation reflects this by including provisions that allow a person to apply to court to gain access rights or to uphold rights that have already been granted where this is in the best interest of the child to do so.

Section 11 of the Guardian of Infants Act 1964 as amended by the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 now affords parents, relatives and certain other qualifying people rights to apply for access to children.

The process

A parent (and non-parent) may apply to the court for its direction on any question affecting the welfare of their child. This application can include establishing the right of access to the child and can be contested by the parent with custody of the child. The child, to the extent possible given his or her age and understanding, will have the opportunity to make his or her views on the matter known to the court.

 Enforcement Orders

The Guardian of Infants Act 1964 as amended by the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 (Section 18A) provides that where a guardian or parent of a child has been granted either custody or access by court order and it is unreasonably denied, that guardian/parent of the child may apply to the court for an enforcement order.

An enforcement order may provide for one or more of the following:

  • That the applicant be granted additional access to the child.
  • That a parent/guardian be reimbursed for any necessary expenses sustained by the applicant in attempting to exercise his or her right to access or custody.
  • That either or both parties in order to ensure future compliance, attend one of the following: a parenting programme, family counselling, receive information on the possibility of their availing of mediation.

The Citizen’s Information website provides  a basic overview of the law relating to access, how to apply and makes reference to how the law operates in respect of same-sex couples and grandparents.

The courts Service webpage on Access provides a definition and explanation of the concept of access and outlines the manner in which it can be ordered; and identifies who can apply for access and how such an application can be made.

Access and Custody of Children whose parents are not married to each other:

This page from Treoir contains definitions of both custody and access and the methods of obtaining such rights, including through the courts and other methods of alternative dispute resolution.

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