Ireland: a softening of the marital paridigm

M. Harding

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The last couple of years have seen several developments in Irish law providing for alternative family structures to the traditional married family. The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 came into force on 1 January 2011.1 This Act created a new institution of civil partnership and provided statutory protection for cohabiting couples. The courts have shown support for alternative family structures in the high profile case of McD v L2 and the Irish Law Reform Commission has suggested reform to private child law to make it easier for unmarried fathers, step-parents and civil partners to care for their children.3 However, Irish law still retains a constitution preference for the marital family. Articles 414 and 425 of the Irish Constitution expressly protect the institution of marriage and the marital family. The marital family is given inalienable rights superior to all positive law and the autonomy of married parents to make decisions for their children is given heavy weight in child law cases. This article will discuss the legal provision of alternative family structures and assess to what extent marriage retains its importance as the paradigm for family relationships in Ireland. It will be argued that the effects of constitutional preference for the marriage are still felt throughout the Irish family law system and have the greatest detrimental effect on children. Proposed reforms to protect children’s rights remain limited by the constitutional protection of the marital family.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe International Survey of Family Law
EditorsB. Atkin
Place of PublicationBristol
PublisherJordan Publishing
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9781846613319
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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