279. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the change in legislation making unmarried fathers guardians of children after they have lived 12 months with the mother's children, including three months following a child's birth, will come into effect with the commencement of the Act and if a father who ceased to live with a partner at any stage before the commencement of the Act will qualify; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2905/16]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The change to which the Deputy refers is the provision under which a non-marital father automatically becomes a guardian of his child where he lives with the child's mother for 12 consecutive months, including not less than three months after the birth of the child. This provision came into effect on 18 January 2016 when specified provisions of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 were commenced. It will not have retrospective effect. Therefore, only cohabitation after 18 January 2016 will count towards that 12 month period. The provision will not apply where a non-marital father has already ceased to cohabit with the mother of his child.