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Parental Separation

Teachers in primary schools may find themselves in situations where parental separation, often following marital breakdown, is an issue for both the children they teach and their parents. Parental separation can be traumatic for the children concerned and teachers should approach the issue with sensitivity and with a focus on the well being of the children.

Teachers should keep in mind that parents, although separated following marriage breakdown, remain the legal guardians of their children. The key principle is 'once a parent always a parent'. Guardianship gives both parents a say in matters affecting children's welfare.

In a non-marital relationship and in the absence of a parental agreement or court order, the father's name on the birth certificate does not confer guardianship rights. If a dispute or issue arises in relation to the children the teacher may have to request evidence of the parental agreement or court order dealing with guardianship. A parental agreement is a joint statutory declaration made by the mother and father of a non-marital child who wished the father to become a guardian of the child jointly with the mother.

Unless precluded by court order, each parent has a right to consult with class teachers, attend parent teacher meetings, receive normal school reports and be notified of meetings of parents. This should be accommodated in accordance with school policy. If necessary some flexibility should be applied.

Where a dispute or any issue arises at school level the teacher should seek direction from the board of management.

Family Law (pdf, 73 kb)
Article from InTouch Jan/Feb 2004
Marital Breakdown (pdf, 1,186 kb)
Article from InTouch October 1997

Updated July 2014