While we all may have heard of a “common law marriage”, whereby a couple live together as husband and wife without actually being legally married, the concept is not recognised under Irish law. Although the family is recognised and protected in Article 41.1 as “the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society”, the State still holds the institution of marriage above all non-marital unions, as outlined in my article on the rights of the marital family. Nonetheless, non-marital families are afforded some protections and rights under Irish law.
Historically, one of the relationships with the fewest amount of rights was that of unmarried/natural father and his child. While a natural father’s rights have increased dramatically in recent years, they still do not come close to those of a father who is married to the mother of the child. Indeed, a natural father has no constitutional rights to his child whatsoever, so it is to statute that we must turn. Continue reading