Access and How To Apply
The parent who does not have custody of the child may apply for access to the child through the Courts. Access is visitation rights and the right to retain personal relationships with the child.
When a relationship between the parents breaks down, it is highly recommended that the parents attend mediation to attempt to agree access arrangements. This alleviates the stress of going through the Courts system. Alternatively, an access agreement can be drawn up in our office. If the parties cannot agree on access arrangements, an application can be made to the District Court. This applies even if the parties are married.
An application to the District Court is initiated by either attending with us or attending directly with your local District Court Office. We represent clients in Swords District Court, Balbriggan District Court and also Dolphin House which is the Dublin Family Law District Court for these applications.
An application for access is made under Section 11 of the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964, as amended. Section 11 governs numerous applications such as custody, re-location and it asks the Court for a direction regarding the welfare of the child on any question which arises. Therefore, any aspect of a child’s upbringing which can’t be agreed between the parents can be brought before the Court.
The Court will consider what is in the best interests of the child. Access is the right of the child but should only be granted if it is in the best interests of the child.
Married persons can also apply to the District Court for an Access Order. This arises in situations where parties are newly separated, cannot afford to get legally separated and simply cannot agree on access arrangements upon the breakdown of the relationship. The District Court is also quicker and more cost-effective then going to the Circuit Court.
Generally, the party who does not have custody of the child issues an application for access to the child. However, the person who has custody of the child can issue an application to regulate access. For example, a mother having custody of the child can issue an application for the Court to regulate access. This arises in situations where although the parties have agreed some access arrangements they are not working out, for example the person is always late or changing arrangements at the last minute. An access order is a solution to such a problem as when the Order is issued the arrangements are set in stone and each party knows where they stand in relation to access arrangements and more importantly the child.
Relatives of a child also have the right to apply for access to the child under Section 11B of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964, as amended. A relative or a person who has acted in loco parentis (for example a step parent) has the right to make this application. This will involve two applications to the District Court as firstly they must apply to the Court for permission to issue an application for access. Upon dealing with such an application, the Court will consider the connection that the child has with the Applicant, their guardians view on the matter and also the risk, if any, of the application disrupting the child’s life and most importantly the child’s best interests.