More and more frequently grandparents are seeking advice in relation to their rights regarding grandchildren. Over the last twenty years, grandparents have played an increasingly important role in the family, the most major role being the provision of child care.
Under the Family Law Act 1975 the Court must have regard to the nature of a child’s relationship with significant others (including grandparents). when determining what orders are in a child’s best interests.
There is not, however, an automatic right of grandparents to have a relationship with their grandchildren. It is children who have rights. The Family Law Act specifically refers to a child’s right to not only know and be cared for by both their parents, but also their right to spend time and communicate with other people significant to their care, welfare and development, most commonly grandparents. This reflects the significant role grandparents play in a child’s life and the importance of nurturing those attachments.
Grandparents are also specifically referred to in the provisions of the Act about in relation to who can apply for orders about a child. A Parenting Order deals with who the child lives and spends time with, as well as who they communicate with and who has parental responsibility for them. However, before any party can apply to the Family Court for parenting orders, they must firstly attend mediation with a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner with all relevant parties, except in exceptional circumstances.
In some cases, it can be appropriate for a child to be ordered to live with a grandparent if the parents don’t have the capacity to care for the child, for example because of alcohol or drug abuse. Quite commonly, however, situations arise when a child’s parents have separated and the grandparents are prevented from having a relationship with the child. This usually occurs to the grandparents whose son/daughter doesn’t primarily care for the child. Depending on the circumstances of the grandparents’ prior role in the child’s care, a Grandparent can seek orders to enable them to spend time with the child separately from the time with the parents.
Speak to our expert Family Law team if you would like advice about your options in relation to your grandchildren.
This is only general information and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact our office on Freecall 1800 609 945 or email us now.