Access, Guardianship & Custody

The term custody refers to the physical custody and control of a minor child, meaning a child under the age of 18. As the court decides who should have custody of the child, it considers the welfare of the child to be the most important factor. Children's welfare includes their religious, moral, intellectual, physical, and social well-being.In guardianship, the responsibility is to care for and maintain a child, and to make decisions in the child's best interests.

The term access refers to the child spending time with a parent who does not have the day-to-day care and control over the child and with whom the child does not live primarily.

Several people can share custody. A married couple is automatically joint guardians and custodians of their children under Irish law. Separation will not affect their rights as joint guardians, with full authority to make decisions about the welfare of the children. It is typical in Irish Courts for parents to remain joint custodians after a marriage ends, but the Court will decide which parent the children should live with on a daily basis. Access to the children will be granted to the other parent, albeit for shorter periods. The access can occur weekly, fortnightly, monthly, or for any other period, as well as during holidays.

Unmarried mothers are legally the sole guardians of children born outside of marriage. For unmarried fathers to become legal guardians of their children, they must apply to the court unless the mother signs a statutory declaration. Guardianship is not required before a father can gain access to or custody of his children.