Matrimonial Family Law Northern Ireland

At P A Duffy & Co Solicitors Northern Ireland, our main areas of legal expertise include divorce law and family law:

Residence and Contact Orders – The law dealing with contact and the residence of children is the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (CO). This gives the court the power to make decisions about where a child will live and who they have contact with when the parents cannot agree. The court also has the power to make decisions about a child’s day to day life.

When a court has to make a decision about a child’s upbringing, the child’s best interests must be at the heart of the decision. This is a legal duty and is often called the welfare principle.

Parental Responsibility Orders – Parental Responsibility law is defined in s 3(1) Children Act 1989 as being:“all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”.
The term ‘Parental Responsibility’ attempts to focus on the parent’s duties towards their child rather than the parent’s rights over their child.

Divorce Law in Northern Ireland
When certain decisions have to be taken about a child in Northern Ireland, all those with Parental Responsibility for the child are allowed to have a say in that decision. The decision will have to be about the upbringing of the child. Day to day decisions should be taken by the resident parent or the person with whom the child lives without interference from other Parental Responsibility holders.

In practical terms Parental Responsibility means the power to make important decisions in relation to a child. This can include: determining the child’s education and where the child goes to school; choosing, registering or changing the child’s name; appointing a child’s guardian in the event of the death of a parent; consenting to a child’s operation or certain medical treatment; accessing a child’s medical records; consenting to taking the child abroad for holidays or extended stays;  representing the child in legal proceedings;  determining the religion the child should be brought up with. Where there is a mixed cultural background this should include exposure to the religions of all those with Parental Responsibility, until the child can reach an age where he/she can make their own decision on this.

Northern Ireland Law:

  • Mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility and will not lose it if divorced (divorce law).
  • Married fathers automatically have Parental Responsibility and will not lose it if divorced.
  • Unmarried fathers do not automatically have Parental Responsibility.
  • Step-fathers and Step-mothers do not automatically have Parental Responsibility.
  • Grandparents do not automatically have Parental Responsibility.

An unmarried father can obtain Parental Responsibility by:  marrying the mother;  having his name registered or re-registered on the birth certificate if his name is not already registered; entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother; obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the court; having obtained a Residence Order prior to 22/4/2014; being named as the resident parent under a Child Arrangements Order;

* The law has changed so that unmarried fathers who registered or re-registered their name on their child’s birth certificate after 1st December 2003 will have Parental Responsibility for their child. For more information click here.

If you require further clarity on any of these issues please contact us at P A Duffy & Co Solicitors, Dungannon.



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