Cabinet Approves 'Historic' Children And Family Relationships Bill

Today, Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald received Cabinet approval for the Children and Family Relationship Bill, which Taoiseach Enda Kenny described as "the most important change in family legislation since the foundation of the State."

Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald who approved the Children and Family Relationships Bill today.

The new legislation includes more than 170 sections and will extend guardianship, custody and adoption rights to different types of family situations. Among the changes, the Bill will seeks to enable civil partners and cohabiting couples who have lived together for three years, both straight and gay, to jointly apply to adopt a child. Currently, they can only adopt as an individual.

“The Children and Family Relationship Bill, when enacted, will ensure Family Law in Ireland will reflect the modern society we live in,” commented Labour TD, John Lyons.

“There are many types of family units and for far too long Irish Family Law has simply airbrushed families, other than the ‘traditional’ family, out of existence. This has resulted in many parents and their children being nothing more than second-class citizens.

“This Bill will address the needs of children living in diverse family settings. It will provide access to parentage, guardianship, custody and access to a range of family situations that are not currently recognised in our laws.”

While the legislation is a significant step forward in extending equal rights to same-sex couples, Lyons added that heterosexual unmarried couples will also be positively affected.

“It is significant for LGBT families that civil partnered and co-habiting couples will have the right to apply for adoption together for the first time. In reality though, the vast majority of benefactors of this Bill will be heterosexual couples whose family situations are not currently recognised under law.

“This Bill will wipe away the cultural stigma all too often felt by many of the diverse families that exist in Ireland. It will create a new law that cherishes equally our diverse family structures which have always been there,” he concluded.

The wording of the Bill has been agreed on, and it will be published this Thursday.

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