Step Parents

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Step parents often have a close relationship with their step children and wish to have the formal legal relationship to permit them to make decisions regarding the children’s upbringing. One way to do this would be to appoint the step parent as a guardian of the child.

Traditionally, given the absence of a biological link, step parents could not apply to be appointed as guardians of their step children. In order to achieve a legal relationship with the child, the step parent, having married the child’s biological parent, had to formally adopt the child jointly with their spouse; the child’s biological parent. In this event, all legal rights of the other biological parent were extinguished. Thus the other biological parent with guardianship status can veto the adoption process.

The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 effective since 18 January 2016, permits a child to have more than 2 guardians where such an arrangement is in the best interests of the child. Step parents, for example, can now apply for guardianship status in respect of the child provided they fulfil the following criteria:

(a) The applicant is married to or in a civil partnership with the biological parent, and

(b) The applicant has shared parental responsibility for the child’s day-to-day care for a period of more than 2 years;

(c) The making of the order is the best interests of the child.

Once appointed guardian the step parent acts as guardian alongside both the biological mother and father.

  • Citizens Information provides an overview of the law and processes that apply in respect of step-parent adoption in Ireland.
  • The Adoption Authority of Ireland outlines the different types of adoption available in Ireland today including step-parent adoption and extended family adoption.

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Adoption Authority of Ireland

  • Address: Adoption Authority of Ireland, Shelbourne House, Shelbourne Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, Ireland
  • Tel:(01) 230 9300  Fax: 01-6671438
  • Website:
  • Email:

Child and Family Agency

  • Address: Child and Family Agency, Block D, Park Gate Business Centre, Parkgate Street, Dublin, Ireland
  • Tel:(01) 635 2854
  • Website:
  • Email:

Citizens Information