By Alison Osmand
There is no doubt that the role of grandparents in the lives of children is an important, special and unique one. How often do you see the words, “When the tough gets going the tough go to grandmas” emblazoned on the t-shirts of little children? With such an important role in the lives of young ones, we think it’s important to ensure grandparents know their legal rights in the lives of their grandchildren.
As one of its principles, The Family Law Act specifically recognises that children have a right to spend time with and communicate with on a regular basis, both their parents and other people significant to their care, welfare and development. This may include grandparents and other relatives, provided of course that it is in the best interests of the children to spend time with them.
In a forever changing and fast paced world, grandparents perform a greater role in the care of their grandchildren. They often provide services to adult children for care, collection, babysitting and attendance at many children’s events. This is especially the case when both parents are working or the children’s parents are separated and grandparents are the first port of call for “hands on” assistance.
For grandparents who are prohibited from spending time with their grandchildren, it is possible for them to make an Application to the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court of Australia to seek Orders that the children spend time with them and communicate with them on a regular basis. Sometimes when the children’s parents’ relationship breaks down, a sad consequence is that children who otherwise had an active and involved grandparent, may end up not spending much time with them at all. This is exacerbated of course if grandparents live interstate.
The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court are very conscious of the important role that grandparents play in the lives of children. The Court is careful to make Orders that takes into account the time that children are spending with both of their parents having regard to the benefit of the child remaining connected to their grandparents.
It is also important to note that in some circumstances where grandparents are in fact the primary caregiver to their grandchildren, they may even be entitled to a grandparent child-care benefit from the Commonwealth Government.
If you are a grandparent whose relationship with your grandchildren has changed as a result of family breakdown, you may wish to contact DDCS Lawyers on (02) 6212 7600 to discuss how to reconnect with your grandchildren.