Recent Irish Family Law TimeFrame

Family Law Act 1988abolished actions for the restitution of conjugal rights.  After the passing of this Act, no person shall be entitled to institute proceedings for restitution of conjugal rights.

Children Act 1989gave Irish health boards powers to care for children.

Judicial Separation and Family Law Reform Act 1989amended the grounds for judicial separation, assisted reconciliation between estranged spouses and provided for ancillary orders such as maintenance, property adjustment and custody of children in Ireland.

Child Care Act 1991gave powers to Irish health boards to care for children who were ill-treated, neglected or sexually abused.

Child Abduction and Enforcement of Custody Orders Act 1991dealt with wrongful retention of children. Implemented the Hague Convention 1980 and the Luxembourg Convention 1980. This included wrongfully removing children from Eire to Northern Ireland

Maintenance Act 1994simplified procedures for recovering maintenance debts from other countries.

Family Law Act 1995raised the minimum age for marriage to 18 in Ireland and required 3 months’ written notice to local registrar, abolished petitions for jactitation of marriage (falsely claiming to be married to someone), provided for declarations of marital status, and ancillary orders after judicial separation or foreign divorce (but see the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015).

Domestic Violence Act 1996extended safety, barring and protection orders to non-spouses, (unmarried) gave Irish health boards powers to apply for orders, allowed arrest without warrant for breach.

Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996: for the first time this allowed divorce and remarriage in the Republic of Ireland, with all ancillary orders.

Children Act 1997: in Ireland recognised natural fathers as guardians, allowed children’s views to be considered in guardianship, access and custody matters, allowed parents to have joint custody.

Family Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1997amended the law in relation to notification of intention to marry, barring orders, powers of attorney and distribution of disclaimed estates.

Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997section 16 deals with the abduction of a child by a parent.

European Council Regulation 1347/2000allowed – subject to certain conditions – the mutual recognition in all EU Member States (except Denmark) of court orders relating to divorce, legal separation, nullity or child custody. Replaced by: European Council Regulation 2201/2003 (q.v.)

Children Act 2001authorised courts to order health boards to convene a family welfare conference where a child requires special care or protection. The health board can apply for a care order or supervision order if necessary.

Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act 2002amended the Domestic Violence Act to provide eight day limit for ex parte interim barring orders, changed grounds on which ex parte orders could be granted.

European Council Regulation 2201/2003concerned jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and matters of parental responsibility.

Civil Registration Act 2004reorganised and modernised the system of registration of marriages, divorces and nullity (but see the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015).

Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004allowed the publication of decisions in certain family law proceedings, subject to not identifying the parties.

Adoption Act 2010required consultation with fathers of children to be adopted (but see the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015).

Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010Established civil partnership for same-sex couples, and varied obligations for unmarried people living together (but see the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015).

Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011amended the 1996 Domestic Violence Act, transferred the mediation functions of the Family Support Agency to the Legal Aid Board and amended the 2010 Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act.

Jurisdiction of Courts and Enforcement of Judgments (Amendment) Act 2012amended the 1994 Maintenance Act to take into account the 2007 Lugano Convention.


Guardianship is the collection of rights and duties towards a child and is now set out in legislation. Section 49 (6C) of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 says the rights and responsibilities of a guardian are:

  • to decide where and with whom the child will live;
  • to decide about the child’s religious, spiritual, cultural and linguistic upbringing;
  • to consent to medical, dental and other health-related treatment for the child for which a guardian’s consent is required;
  • to comply with various statutory provisions, including passport facilities;
  • to place the child for adoption, and consent to the adoption of the child, under the Adoption Act 2010.