When is Child Old Enough to Spend Time with his Father

26th June 2012

I recently spent several hours in the Circuit Court waiting for my family law case to come on for hearing. The case was not reached and it has been put back, probably for about another six months. That however is another story.

One of the central issues in this case concerned the future of a 4-year-old boy.

I act for the father, who, in order to be closer to his son and to play a full part in his upbringing, sold his house in Dublin city and rented accommodation within a few minutes of his ex partner’s house so he could be nearby and could spend as much time as possible with his son. He is extraordinarily committed to his son and believes that his main purpose in life is to successfully bring up his son and give him every opportunity he can in life.

At the moment he has one overnight a week with his son and he is fighting for full joint custody. The very experienced barrister on the other side said to me during negotiations “if your client wants joint parenting, he will have to get an expert’s report because he won’t get it from this judge”. She went on to say that joint parenting was not appropriate because the child “is only four years old”.

This is a major problem for me in many cases where I am acting for a father looking for access to a young child. The argument is often made that the child is too young to spend prolonged periods of time with his father. I do not think I have ever heard the argument the other way round. A child cannot spend too much time with his mother but apparently he can spend too much time with his father. The argument that the mother or her barrister will often make is that a young child needs structure in his/her life and the constant toing and froing between mother and father would be disruptive. I have absolutely no time whatsoever for this argument but I have to say I am developing a fascination with it because it is used so many times in family law cases where the father is looking for contact with a child and over the coming weeks therefore I intend to carry out some research to see if there is any merit in this particular argument.

Watch this space.
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