Chronological Guide to Irish Family Law Legislation and Statutes from 1865 – present
Property (Ireland) Act 1865: permitted a wife to sue her husband in tort if separated or deserted.
Partition Acts 1868 and 1876: allowed courts to divide up property between spouses.
Matrimonial Causes and Marriage Law (Ireland) (Amendment) Act 1870: brought civil nullity rules in line with Church rules.
Married Women’s Property Act 1882: allowed married women to hold property in their own name. Replaced by:
Married Women’s Status Act 1957: made wives liable for their own debts and breaches of duty. Allowed courts to decide property disputes between spouses.
Guardianship of Infants Act 1964: gave parents the right to joint guardianship of their children and allowed courts to make decisions on custody and access.
Succession Act 1965: reformed the law relating to the estates of people who had died, especially the administration and distribution of property where there is no will. Specified the shares of spouses and children on intestacy.
Marriages Act 1972: raised the minimum marriage age to 16 for boys and girls, retrospectively validated so-called “Lourdes marriages”.
Maintenance Orders Act 1974: allowed the reciprocal enforcement of maintenance orders between the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales and Scotland.
Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act 1976: provided for periodical payments by one spouse to another in cases of failure to provide reasonable maintenance, with deductions of earnings at source and barring orders.
Family Home Protection Act 1976: protected family home and required prior written consent of both spouses for sale of family home or chattels.
Courts Act 1980: widened the Circuit Court’s jurisdiction in family law matters.
Family Law Act 1981: abolished actions for enticement of spouse and breach of promise to marry. Allowed courts to decide disputes over gifts after broken engagements.
Family Law (Protection of Spouses and Children) Act 1981: gave the Circuit and District Courts power to grant barring and protection orders. (Repealed by Domestic Violence Act 1996)
Domicile and Recognition of Foreign Divorces Act 1986: confirmed independent domiciles of wives, recognised divorces granted where either spouse was domiciled.
Status of Children Act 1987: abolished status of illegitimacy and amended law on maintenance and succession for non-marital children. Allowed unmarried fathers to apply for guardianship of their children. Provided for blood tests to establish paternity.
Family Law Act 1988: abolished actions for the restitution of conjugal rights.
Children Act 1989: gave health boards powers to care for children.
Judicial Separation and Family Law Reform Act 1989: amended the grounds for judicial separation, assisted reconciliation between estranged spouses and provided for ancillary orders such as maintenance, property adjustment and custody of children.
Child Care Act 1991: gave powers to health boards to care for children who were ill-treated, neglected or sexually abused.
Child Abduction and Enforcement of Custody Orders Act 1991: dealt with wrongful retention of children. Implemented the Hague Convention 1980 and the Luxembourg Convention 1980.
Maintenance Act 1994: simplified procedures for recovering maintenance debts from other countries.
Family Law Act 1995: raised the minimum age for marriage to 18 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.
Domestic Violence Act 1996: extended safety, barring and protection orders to non-spouses, gave health boards powers to apply for orders, allowed arrest without warrant for breach.
Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996: allowed divorce and remarriage, with all ancillary orders.
Children Act 1997: 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 1997: Amends the Domestic Violence Act 1996 in respect of barring orders and interim barring orders. Section 4 now states that the applicant seeking a further barring order,shall be presumed to have lived with the respondent as husband and wife for a period of at least six months in aggreagte during the period of nine months prior to making the application.
Protections for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998: Protects a person from civil liability who have reported child abuse to a designated officer of the Health Board in terms of the communications made. Further protection is afforded to employees who report child abuse from being penalised by their employers as result of making such reports. The protection is not unqialified and the person who has reported child abuse must have acted reasonably and in good faith in forming that opinion and communicating it to the appropriate person. Where a person who reports child abuse to the appropriate person knowing the statement to be false shall be guilty of an offence.
Protection of Children (Hague Convention) Act 2000: Implements into Irish law the Hague Convention on the protection of children. Provisions of the Convention deal with jurisdiction, applicable law, co-operation and enforcement of measures designed to protect the welfare of the child between signatory states to the Convention. In order to facilitate greater co-operation and information sharing, each signatory state must establish a Central authority, which in Ireland’s case is the Department of Equality, Justice and Law Reform. Once the child reaches the age of 18 years, the Convention provisions can no longer be invoked. There are several matters which are outside the remit of the Convention such as rights on asylum, immigration, maintenance payments and public matters of a general nature involving education and health. The Contracting State who has jurisdiction in relation to cases of wrongful removal or retention is the one where the child was habitually resident immediately prior to the retention or wrongful removal, until the child has acquired habitual residence in another Contracting State, in addition to;
1. Each person, institution or body having custody rights acquiesced in the removal or retention.
2. The child is resident in the other Contracting State for at least 1 year after the person, authority and institution having custody rights should have knowledge of the whereabouts of the child, no request for return lodged within that period is still pending and the child is settled in his environment.
Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act 2002: Permits the court granting an interim barring order on an ex parte basis where in the particular circumstances of the case, the court deems it necessary and expedient to do so in the interest of justice. Any application for an interim barring order shall be grounded on affidavit or information sworn by the applicant (person applying for the barring order). If an interim barring order is made ex-parte, a copy of the court order, note of evidence and information sworn by the applicant must be served upon the respondent (person against whom the barring order is being enforced) as soon as reasonable practicable.
Child Care (Amendment) Act 2007: This act affords greater rights to foster and relative parents who have cared for a foster child for a period of not less than 5 continuous years. Some of the rights granted to foster and relative parents include; consentt to medical or psychiatric treatment, treatment or asessment with respect to the child, permission to sign passport applications and school trip consent forms. However, any application may be made though the Courts and with the knowledge and consent of the Health Service Executive. Furthermore, the parents in loco parentis must also be informed of the application. Before any application is granted, the courts will have regard to what are the best interests of the child and wlll take into account the wishes of the child in light of his age and degree of understanding.
Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008: Permits the Property Registration Authority (PRA) to cancel an entry made in the Land Registry or note compliance in the Registry of Deeds, after being satisfied that the Property Adjustment Order has been complied with. The PRA are also required to amend or cancel the entry in the Land Registry and note the position in the Registry of Deeds when the initial Property Adjustment Order has been amended, revoked or suspended, which usually arises when the second Property Adjustment Order has been duly lodged for registration with the PRA.