We have a particular focus on the needs of children in the context of relationship breakdown.

While the law makes clear that the ‘best interests’ of children must be paramount in all cases involving children, the system for the resolution of disputes relating to children does not necessarily always match up to that most essential ideal.

Donagh has a particular interest in this area, including actively advocating for the recognition and enforcement of children’s rights in family law disputes, engaging with non-legal organisations in promoting such rights and being involved in the drafting of guidelines relating to Court ordered assessments and reports in relation to children (what are known as Section 47 and Section 32 reports)

Donagh has been involved in a number of cases involving very high conflict around custody and access issues, including cases involving parental alienation.

Our approach so to seek to ensure that both the law, and the spirit of the law, of placing the protection of children as the paramount consideration in family law cases, is observed in such cases.

We can advise on:

  • custody and access issues
  • guardianship issues including – consent to medical treatment, disputes around education and schools, issues around religious observation and religious education
  • the rights of grandparents and other family members in respect of children
  • high conflict custody and access cases, including cases involving parental alienation
  • maintenance for children


How can I get custody of a child in Ireland?

The parents o children born to married persons automatically become the joint custodial parents of their children

For unmarried persons, they must apply to Court to get joint or sole custody

How to get half custody of your child?

Half or ‘joint’ custody is automatic for children borne to married parents. For children borne to parents who are not married, the mother automatically acquires sole custody upon birth. It is possible for the other parent to seek custody, normally joint custody with the mother. This is done firstly by that parent becoming a guardian of the children and then seeking custody

It is possible to become a guardian if the mother signs a particular form of Declaration appointing the other parent as joint guardian. However it is only possible to acquire custody by Court Order.

Will I get full custody of my child?

Unmarried mothers are automatically the sole custodial parents of their children. It is open to an unmarried person to seek guardianship, custody and access rights. Such rights, if granted by a Court, would normally be granted jointly with the other parent

For children borne to married couples, the parents have automatic joint custody and can only lose joint custody by Court order. It is possible for a married parent to seek sole custody of a child but that would normally only arise in very particular situations such as neglect, abandonment or where a parent has acted significantly contrary to the health or welfare of a child

In most cases involving married couples, the parents would continue to have joint custody with perhaps primary care of the children to one parent and, if necessary, agreed or stipulated access by the other parent with the children

Can I appoint someone else to be a guardian I my child?

It is possible to sign a Declaration appointing the natural father of a child as a joint guardian of a child, rather than having to go to Court to apply for guardianship

It is also possible to appoint one or more persons as a guardian in your Will. That is known as a testamentary guardian. Such persons only act as guardians upon the death of the person who appointed them. Generally a person may appoint a testamentary guardian where the other parent is deceased or where a person has concerns about the other parent exercising sole rights in respect of their children.

A testament guardian can then apply to court for other rights in respect of children including custody and access.

What is the difference between co-parenting and parallel parenting?

The ability of parents who separate to work together in the rearing of their children is hugely important for the welfare of their children. Conversely it is widely recognised that, while children do suffer as a result of parental separation, there most serious impact to children is witnessing or being party to parental conflict.

Co-parenting is a model whereby parents can discuss, negotiate and agree on both care arrangements and how to parent their children. It does not necessarily involve parents agreeing on all aspects of parenting as each parent may have their own unique style. However, the core aspect of co-parenting is that parents can agree at all times to try to parent in a mutually respective and supportive way, in the interests of their children.

Where there is parental conflict, such an approach may not be possible. In those circumstances parents may finds themselves parallel parenting. That essentially involves each parenting in their own way and without any mutual support or shared understanding as to what is in the best interests of their children. While this mode of parenting is far from the ideal model, it may be the only option for parents who cannot co-operate together and at least it can shield children from open parental conflict.