Shannon on Zaunegger v Germany
THE RECENT European Court of Human Rights judgment on the rights of an unmarried father may have far-reaching implications for Ireland, writes Geoffrey Shannon.
The court recently handed down a very important decision on joint custody that may have far reaching implications for the rights of unmarried fathers in Ireland. Joint custody involves a child residing with each parent for a stipulated period.
The significance of this ruling, however, derives from the rights it attributes to marriage-like relationships rather than its consideration of joint custody per se.
Under Irish law, unmarried fathers do not have an automatic right to the day-to-day care of their children (known as “custody”) nor do they have an automatic right to a say in the upbringing of their children (known as “guardianship”). Nor do unmarried fathers have a right to joint custody. Rather, they have a statutory right to apply for guardianship, custody or joint custody, which will be determined according to the nature of the relationship between the child and the unmarried father.
Following the recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Zaunegger v Germany, the Irish law governing the attribution of guardianship, custody and joint custody should be reviewed to determine its compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights.