Family Law, Access & Maintenance

Family Law

Divorce and separation are highly stressful life events, for couples and any children involved.

Thomasina Connell & Co. Solicitors have extensive experience in all aspects of Family Law. We seek to assist you, in an empathetic and sensitive manner. Our aim is to help you find the quickest, most cost effective and practical solution.

What About Maintenance Payments?

Parents all have legal obligations to make maintenance payments for their children. For parents, it does not matter if they are married or living together – the financial duty of care is the same.

Regarding couples, spouses and civil partners also have legal maintenance obligations to each other. Partners co-habiting do not have the same rights in law. The only exception to this, is if one can prove that they are financially dependent on the other.

In separation and divorce, maintenance covers the right to receive financial support and the obligation to provide it. Usually, the partner with main custody of the child seeks maintenance from the other parent.

How Much Are Maintenance Payments in Ireland?

There is no universal rule or set formula for calculating maintenance in Ireland. Every situation will be considered, due to the unique circumstances of the family involved. Maintenance payments cover costs such as clothing, food, and housing.

If a couple cannot agree on how much should be paid, your solicitor will intervene to advocate for the best for you, and any children. When couples can agree, they solidify this in a Court Order. If they cannot, they apply to the court for a Maintenance Order. Once these are decided upon by the court, it is extremely difficult to alter elements of the order.

Custody and Guardianship

Guardianship covers the rights, responsibilities, and obligations that parent – and sometimes other adults – have for custody of children. A parent or guardian has a duty of care towards the child. They also have the right to make decisions on behalf of a child, such as baptism, blood transfusions and schooling.

In Ireland, parents, and at times grandparents, are usually the guardians involved in a child’s care.

Guardianship Rights

For opposite sex couples who are married, both parents are automatic guardians from birth. It is more complex for same sex marries couples, unmarried couples, step-parents and any other less “traditional” parental arrangements. Legal guidance is paramount in these circumstances.

Grandparents can apply to be a guardian if they have lived with a parent for at least 3 years and co-parented for over 2 years. Grandparents can also secure the role of guardian if they provided daily care to a child for over a year.

Not all legal guardians, will be granted custody of a child. A lot depends on the conduct of a guardian, and what is deemed most beneficial for the child’s wellbeing and safety.

This summary of key aspects of family law, highlight the complexity of these issues. Contact Thomasina Connell on 045-525125 to discuss any aspect of family law, and ensure the best for yourself, and your family. She can also be contacted via

The breakdown of any relationship can be a particularly difficult and stressful time. It can be very challenging to make decisions that are in the best interests of you and your children. It is important to obtain legal advice at an early stage to ensure that you know your rights and your entitlements.

Where one parent is the primary carer of the children and cannot meet their financial needs, they can seek to have the other parent discharge Maintenance in respect of the dependent children. Maintenance is money towards the day to day costs a child incurs: food, clothing, schooling & medical/dental costs as well as costs of extra-curricular activities, school trips etc.

Maintenance can of course be paid by agreement. If no agreement can be reached between the parties, an application can be made in the District Court for a Maintenance Order to be made, whereby a Judge makes a decision on the amount and frequency of the Maintenance to be paid by one party to the other.

Access is the word used to describe the right of a child to have access with the parent/guardian that they do not live with, in order to spend time together. If one parent works full-time it can often be the case that the childs access to that parent would take place in the evenings or at weekends. It is essential at the outset of a relationship breakdown that a solid plan is put in place to ensure that there is stability and certainty for the child/children around access to the other parent.

It should be possible to agree an access plan however if no agreement can be reached an application can be made to the District Court to have a Judge rule on the issue of access. As these types of cases involve children, any decision made by the Court will be made in the child’s best interests. Depending on the age of the child, the Court can take into account their views.   

Once a formal Court Order is made in relation to access, it must be adhered to my both parties and cannot be altered unless one party make an application for a Variation of Access.

If one of the parties deliberately breaches the Court Order setting out the access consistently, the other party can bring an application to the District Court for a Breach of the Order. 

Divorce and Separation

The core difference between a divorce and separation, is that a divorce allows individuals to remarry. A divorce is more final. The issues are difficult to change later on, even after your circumstances may have changed.

For example, you may wish to change custody or maintenance arrangements if your ex-partner moves or re-marries. So, you would need to go back to court to change these terms.


a) Separation Agreement:

When a married couple or those in a civil partnership decide to live separately following the breakdown of their relationship, they can enter into what is called a ‘Separation Agreement’. The key point here is that it is an agreement between the parties, and they must consent to the terms of this agreement.

For example, issues such as custody, access, maintenance and the division of their assets can be agreed upon by way of negotiation facilitated by their solicitors.

If a consensus can be reached a Separation Agreement is then drawn up for the parties to sign and this is known as a ‘Deed of Separation’. This is a common way for couples to finalise their separation and is generally less stressful than proceeding to court. A Deed of Separation is a legally binding contract, and its main purpose is to clearly set out both parties rights, duties and obligations to each other.

A Deed of Separation can be made a rule of court once a formal application is made.

b) Judicial Separation:

In the event that a couple cannot agree terms of separation, either party can apply to the Court for a decree of Judicial Separation. Before granting a decree, the Court needs to be satisfied that there are sufficient grounds, the parties have been advised of the availability of mediation and if there are dependent children, that proper financial support has been provided.

If granted, a decree means that the couple are no longer required to live together as a married couple. Other issues such as custody, access, maintenance or the transfer of property can also be ordered by the Court. It is important to note that a Judicial Separation does not give the right to either party to remarry.

c) How to Get a Separation Agreement:

To seek a separation, you have two options. Firstly, a couple can set out their own Separation Agreement. This process will be quicker, and less emotionally and financially draining.

The separation agreement needs to cover the division of property and any other assets, pension provision and inheritance rights. If a couple have children, custody, access, and Guardianship must be addressed. Maintenance can apply to both spouses and children.

If a couple cannot reach agreement on these issues, they must seek to separate by Order of the Court.

If a couple is married, they will likely need to go through a separation, and divorce. In Ireland, married couples must wait 2 years before they are permitted to apply to the court, to divorce. This is quite a long period of limbo. So, most couples seek a separation to gain clarity on aspects like assets and custody. Only the Courts can finalise a divorce

2. Co-Habitees

These are either same-sex or opposite sex couples who are living together in an intimate and committed relationship, but they are not civil partners nor are they married to each other.

In the case of co-habitees, they do not have the same right to inherit that civil partners and married couples enjoy. To qualify as a co-habitee you must have been living as a couple for a period of two years or more where you and your co-habiting partner are the parents of a dependent child or alternatively five years or more immediately preceding the end of the relationship.

Once a person can show that they are a qualified co-habitee, they can make an application to the Court for provision similarly to the manner in which a spouse can seek redress under the Family Law legislation.

3. Divorce

Before applying for a Divorce, it is essential that the parties have been living apart for two out of the previous three years, be permanently resident in Ireland or have lived in Ireland for at least one year prior to the application being made. Furthermore, there must be no chance of reconciliation.

Once all necessary documentation has been finalised and filed with the Court, a hearing date will be given. All divorce hearings are held in private. On the date of the hearing the Court will decide if there are sufficient grounds to grant a divorce. This decree means the marriage is officially dissolved and you are free to remarry.

The timeline for a Divorce varies – depending on mutual terms of consent or going to Court. 

4. Same Sex Couples

In consideration of same sex couples, a civil partnership registration scheme was introduced in Ireland in 2011 and a right to marry was passed by way of a referendum in 2015.

Same sex couples can also live as co-habittees.

The cost of taking a Personal Injuries claim will always vary and is dependent on a number of factors, including the complexity of your case and the time taken to bring it to a conclusion. We will be happy to provide an estimate of fees once we have spoken with you and reviewed your case.

It is important to note that solicitor’s fees may not be calculated as a percentage of any award or settlement you receive. Any fees charged will be on the basis of the work undertaken by your Solicitor in undertaking work on your case.

The concept of the ‘no win, no fee’ fee arrangement is a common one amongst Solicitors in Ireland. This can often be known as a ‘no foal, no fee’ arrangement. This means no legal charges apply should your case not be successful. On the other hand, if your case is successful either by way of settlement outside of court or in front of a judge in court, then legal fees will apply. Solicitors can enter into no win no fee agreements with clients; however, they are strictly prohibited from advertising no win no fee services.

This is the most common question our clients ask us. More often than not, it can be a difficult one to answer at the early stages of the process as there are so many varying factors to take into account. It can be useful to review ‘The Book of Quantum’ utilised by The Injuries Board which sets out the range of compensation payable for all kinds of injuries

Most Personal Injury cases are settled within 18 – 24 months of commencement however this can vary depending on the complexity of your case. If the person responsible for your injuries does not accept liability for your accident it can take longer.


Most compensation claims are lodged in the Injuries Board seeking an assessment of the award payable to you. Once your claim is lodge the defendant has up to 90 days to respond to your application.

The Injuries Board process can result in award of compensation. It is essential to have a Solicitors advice in making your decision about whether to accept or decline that compensation award.

Family Law.

Divorce and separation are highly stressful life events, for couples and any children involved.

Thomasina Connell & Co. Solicitors have extensive experience in all aspects of Family Law. We seek to assist you, in an empathetic and sensitive manner. Our aim is to help you find the quickest, most cost effective and practical solution.

Read More »


The core difference between a divorce and separation, is that a divorce allows individuals to remarry. A divorce is more final. The issues are difficult to change later on, even after your circumstances may have changed.

Read More »