It is important that the rights and responsibilities of those caring for children be defined. The Same Sex Equality of Marriage Act 2015 and the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 will introduce some key changes to guardianship laws in Ireland. It is likely that before the end of the year these new provisions will be made law.
Same Sex Equality of Marriage Act 2015
Following the passing of the Referendum to permit same sex marriage on the 22 of May 2015 the Marriage Equality Bill was published. The Bill was challenged in the High Court on the basis that fair reporting was not pursued in the period leading up to the Referendum. This challenge was dismissed by the High Court and again dismissed by the Court of Appeal at the end of July. Following this dismissal there was a 28 day gap for an appeal to be submitted to the Supreme Court. Unless an appeal is received within the time limit then the Marriage Equality Bill will become law at some stage in the new sittings of the Dáil.
Children and Family Relationships Act 2015
In the meantime the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, which was passed just prior to Easter Break of this year has not yet come into force. The Act deals with the donor Assisted Human Reproduction and provides for a register of donor conceived persons. It also extends the category of a person which can be appointed a guardian particularly the unmarried father of the child provided he has been living with the mother of the child for 12 months, 9 months of which were prior to the birth of the child.
The extent of the amendment of the Guardianship of Infants Act is vast and complex and will also open up adoption for same sex couples.
The new Act certainly reflects the changing model of the family in Ireland - in 2014, 24,490 children were born outside marriage, while 42,948 were born within marriage.