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How separated Fathers secure Custody after a Partner’s Death

Separated fathers can face a difficult and confusing situation if the mother of their child/children dies. Firstly, your child or children have lost their mother which is a traumatic time for any child. Secondly, even if you are long separated and no matter how you got on with your ex-partner, you are still coping with bereavement yourself. Thirdly, you now have to look at the future of your relationship with your child/children, with the primary emphasis on their care and wellbeing, which may involve custody proceedings.

There are 5 main things to consider if you want to secure custody :

· Do you have Legal Guardianship? If you were not married then your ex-partner may have remained the sole legal guardian of your child and you will now have to apply to court to be appointed legal guardian

· Had your ex-partner appointed a testamentary guardian in their will, to effectively step into their shoes after death? Is this guardian likely to support you in your role and involvement as a father, or will there be conflict?

· Has your ex-partner made provision in their Will for your continuing contact with your child or for your role in your child’s life?

· Guardianship is not the same as Custody. Even if you are a guardian, you may need to consider the question of who now has custody of the child?

· If assuming full custody of your child will present financial difficulties for you, had your ex-partner a life insurance policy to provide for that?

Taking time now to consider the future may save a lot of trouble further down the line – even if it involves what could be a difficult discussion with your ex. It is vital to put your children’s needs first but also to be realistic about what you can manage. Seek expert advice if you are not sure how to proceed

Deirdre Burke is the principal at DM Burke Solicitors, who have offices in Dublin and Arklow and specialises in family law, child law and civil litigation. Deirdre is on the Executive of the Family Lawyers Association of Ireland , and a member of the Association of Collaborative Practitioners (Irish & International), the East Coast Collaborative Lawyers Group, and the South East Collaborative Family Law Solicitors. She is also a trained Family Law Mediator and operates her own independent Mediation Practice deirdreburkemediation.ie She founded “The Guardian Children’s Project”, a charity providing direct support services to children experiencing parental separation, divorce & bereavement. Contact: Tel: +353 402 24370 or +353 1 6641559 or email: info@dmburke.ie

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