In modern society, families are increasingly reliant on the significant care and support that grandparents provide to their grandchildren to allow parents to work and provide for their own family.  While it’s hoped that a separation will not affect grandparent’s relationships with their grandchildren, this is quite often not the case.

Have you been stopped from or limited in the time you can spend with your grandchildren? Including after a separation or divorce?  As a grandparent, you have options to assist you to preserve your grandchildren’s relationship with you.

The Family Law Act (Cth) 1975 gives the Court power to make parenting orders for children that relate to other people, not just parents.  In fact, grandparents are specifically listed in the legislation along with parents as people who may apply to the Court for parenting orders.

As with all parenting matters before the Court, the Judge must regard the child’s best interests as the paramount consideration when making decisions.  This includes a number of factors, including but not limited to the following:

  • the nature of your relationship with the child/ren’s parents. Both with your own child and the other parent and the ongoing effect of such time on the relationship;
  • what time you have spent with the child/ren to date, and the nature of your relationship with them;
  • the child/ren’s wishes;
  • any other factor the court deems relevant.

In circumstances where neither parent may be suitable to care for the child, or where as a grandparent you have been the child’s primary carer, the Court enables you to make an application for them to live with you or to spend substantial and significant time with you.  It is important that if you feel these circumstances apply to you that you seek legal advice prior to making an application with the Court.

Of course, Court should be the last resort.  It is one of the many reasons that the law requires parties to attend mediation proper to commencing court proceedings, unless there is urgency or has been family violence.  While mediation does not guarantee that you will reach agreement as to what time you can spend with your grandchildren, it can be step in the right direction in a lot of cases.

For complex family relationships, there are also family counsellors and other services available that may be able to assist you to discuss with your family the time your grandchildren can spend with you without adding further conflict.

For advice tailored to your specific circumstances, contact us today to discuss your options.

First published 19 October 2017