Grandparents Access Research

February 1st, 2017

The issue of grandparents’ access has become an increasing feature in applications before the family law Courts in recent times. The position in this regard was clarified in the Children and family Law Relationships Act 2015.

Minister Frances Fitzgerald confirmed that “landmark reforms to family law in Ireland will come into effect on 18th January 2016 commencing certain provisions of The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, affecting guardianship, custody and access.

These reforms deliver on the Government’s commitment in the Programme for Government to modernise family law to accommodate the realities of family life. They offer 21st century solutions for 21st century issues.

  • Relatives of a child such as grandparents or those acting in loco parentis will be able to apply to have access to children more easily in the context of relationship breakdown. A child’s best interests will be the paramount consideration for the court in proceedings on guardianship, custody or access.
  • There has been a removal of the two stage process in respect of applications for access for the wider family. Now grandparents, relatives and any other persons can apply directly to the Court for an order in respect of access without first having to seek the Court’s permission to bring such an application.

This means that grandparents will now only be required to make a single court application if they wish to spend time with their grandchildren. This application will again be decided by the District Court Judge who will use similar criteria as previously to determine whether an Order for access or custody should be made, namely:

  1. The grandparents connection with the child;
  2. Any risks that the application would disrupt the child’s life and the extent of harm that these risks would pose;
  3. The wishes of the child’s parents and the child

The Act also provides for a wide definition of grandparents and so includes grandparents of half-blood and their spouses and adoptive grandparents.