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Home > Post-separation parenting: A study of separation and divorce agreements made in the Family Law Courts of Ireland and their implications for parent-child contact and family lives.

Mahon, Evelyn and Moore, Elena (2011) Post-separation parenting: A study of separation and divorce agreements made in the Family Law Courts of Ireland and their implications for parent-child contact and family lives. Dublin: Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

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The aim of this study is to investigate post-separation and divorce agreements made in the Family Law Circuit Courts of Ireland and their implications for parent–child contact and family lives. 

The present study examines the implementation of legislation and divorce, and their implications for children’s lives. In the past, because of the existence of the in camera rule, whereby family law proceedings were entirely private, there was little social science research available on Court proceedings and outcomes. Thus data on separation and divorce remained unknown. When initial requests to the Minister for Justice for access to the Family Law Courts were made in 2006, divorce legislation had been enacted in Ireland for 10 years. It therefore seems timely to take stock of legal practices in this area. While divorce rates remain low in this country, there is a small increase in numbers each year and thus an annual increase in the numbers of children affected by divorce.

This research is also timely in the sense that there is a growing awareness of children’s rights of access to their parents post-separation and divorce. Such rights are clearly articulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (UN, 1989). While the family is a private institution, there is an expectation of States to actively implement children’s rights under the CRC, including in private law. Furthermore, the Council of Europe adopted a Convention on Contact concerning Children in 2003, which came into force in 2005 but which has yet to be ratified by Ireland. Thus, the present research is the first exploratory study into the role of the legal system in Ireland in implementing the contact rights of children (in particular, the child’s right to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except when it is contrary to the child’s best interests). The study provides a basis on which to assess the way in which contact is being addressed in the Family Law Courts. The research is also timely given the increased demand for the recognition of fathers’ rights to have contact with their children. 

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