father and son

Social Protection Minister, Joan Burton, has issued a memo to the government on an amendment to the Civil Registration Act of 2004. The memo has been approved and the legislation is currently being drafted. The Bill if enacted would seek to amend the Civil Registration Act of 2004 and provide for the compulsory requirement for a child’s father to be included in the birth certificate

There has been much debate however in relation to the compulsory registration of the father’s name on the birth certificates. As it stands currently, a mother is not required to supply the father’s details nor is the father required to give information to the registrar of births. The law, if enacted, would provide for this information to become compulsory.

The Independent newspaper recently reported statistics provided by the Central Statistics Office that 40,000 children were born outside marriage in 2012. Furthermore, since 2003 there have been 699,370 births registered in Ireland of which 32,668 births have been registered without their father’s name being included on the birth certificate.

Under the terms of Irish law whether a father’s name is registered on the birth cert, or not does not give rise to any automatic rights for an unmarried father to guardianship or access. The Guardianship of Infants Acts 1964 provides that where a child is born to unmarried parents, the mother is the sole guardian, however it is open to the natural father to apply to court for a declaration appointing him as a guardian of the child.

As it currently stands any father who has a Court Order in respect of guardianship or maintenance or indeed access in respect of a dependent child can apply to have his name registered on his child’s birth cert by producing the said Order which names him as the father of the child. This application can be made without the natural mother’s consent.

While it is acknowledged that reform is this area of the law is well overdue this proposed amendment will do little to place fathers on an equal footing with unmarried mothers and provides for no additional rights whatsoever in relation to the dependent child.

The requirement to have a father’s name registered on a birth cert will assist the Department of Social Welfare in pursuing fathers as “liable relatives” under the Social Welfare legislation in the context of Lone Parent Allowances and other benefits.

Annette Sheehan is a solicitor in FitzGerald Solicitors specialising in all areas of Family Law and Child Care. FitzGerald Solicitors is located at 6 Lapps Quay, Cork.

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