Access and the non-custodial parent in the Republic of Ireland
Maintaining a relationship between parents and children following the breakdown of a marriage or relationship can be fraught with difficulties, particularly where acrimony exists between parents. This article explores the right of a non-custodial parent to have access to their child under Irish law and discusses the results of an interview-based study undertaken by the author using qualitative research methods. The interviewees in the study included practitioners as well as separated, divorced and unmarried fathers and mothers who outlined their views on access and the study found that the majority of non-custodial parents had some level of access to their child. The article further outlines the author’s experience of successfully applying to attend family court as a bona fide researcher and discusses some of the results of observations in those courts which reinforced the results of the interview-based study. Article 9(3) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) states that in the event of separation of parents, it is the right of the child to maintain personal relations and contact with both parents. Article 7(1) of the Convention further supports the right of a child to be cared for by his or her parents. These articles have proved useful for fathers’ rights campaigners who advocate that they should have more contact with their children post-separation. The Convention, however, while ratified by Ireland, has not yet been incorporated into Irish law. The article concludes by examining whether the incorporation of the Convention would advance the rights of Irish children to maintain a relationship with their parents, unless such a relationship would be contrary to the children’s best interests. In light of this, this article examines the proposed wording of the Constitutional Referendum on Children which was published in early 2010 and assesses what impact the passing of such a referendum would have on children’s rights in Ireland.