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When parents separate children are always upset, even if they are not surprised. Parents need to understand this. Each child in the family is different and will cope in different ways with the emotions they are feeling, confusion, anger, sadness, depending on their age and understanding.

Research has shown that the manner in which parents deal with their separation/divorce can have a significant impact on how their children cope. It is the on-going conflict that negatively affects children. So the good news is there are things parents can do to help their children through the process. There are now a lot of books and websites that can help.

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There are a few good books. “When Parents separate: helping your children cope” by John Sharry and others (Veritas) and “Living with separation & divorce” by Fiona McAuslan and Peter Nicholson.

And here are some tips…

  • Sort out new parenting arrangements quickly and that suit the children first.
  • Tell your children you love them and keep reassuring them.
  • The parent with primary care must facilitate access for the other parent
  • Don’t row in front of the children especially at hand-over times.
  • Don’t ask your children to take sides. They love you both.

Access and Custody of Children

For married couples, both parents are automatically Guardians of their children and have joint custody of them. For children born to unmarried parents, however, only the mother is automatically a Guardian. The father can become a Guardian by both parties swearing a Statutory Declaration or by the father applying to Court to be appointed a Guardian. A father who applies to court to be appointed a guardian is granted his request in the vast majority of cases and is only refused Guardianship in a small minority of cases where the Court considers it to be not in the best interests of the child.

Guardianship should not be confused with custody. Guardianship gives a right to have a say in the upbringing of the child whilst custody refers to the day to day control of a child. It is not necessary to have custody to be a Guardian.

Where a child resides primarily with one parent, whether married or unmarried, the other parent has rights of access to the child. There are no prescribed access rights and it varies from case to case. If access arrangements cannot be agreed upon by the parties then one party can apply to the District, Circuit or High Courts for an Order granting access. The majority of access Orders are made in the District Court.

In some cases where the relations between the parties is particularly bad a Court can order a report to be prepared for it to advise the court on what arrangements are in the best interests of the children. Such reports so also, however, add to the costs of the parties.