Many grandparents play an integral role in the lives of their grandchildren, spending time with them and developing a unique relationship.
But in the case of separation or family breakdown, this relationship can be affected. This might happen where the parents of the children are not on good terms, or where a parenting arrangement makes spending time with grandchildren difficult.
What rights do I have as a grandparent?
The Family Law Act recognises the importance of children spending time with their grandparents. Under the Act “children have a right to spend time on a regular basis with and communicate on a regular basis with, both their parents and other people significant to their care, welfare and development (such as grandparents and other relatives)”.
Whilst the law focuses on the rights of the child, it is not blind to the distress loving and supportive grandparents experience when they lose contact with their grandchildren. For this reason, under the Family Law Act, grandparents may be parties to parenting plans and can apply to the Court for parenting orders. The Court can consider grandparents when making orders and when determining a child’s best interests.
What happens if I can’t see my grandchildren?
If you’re being prevented from seeing your grandchildren, either as a result of separation or a relationship breakdown with the parents, there are steps you can take.
Mediation is the first step to try and come to an agreement, whether through organisations such as Relationships Australia or the Family Relationships Centre, or a private mediator. This may assist parties to reach agreement on parenting matters without the need for litigation.
If you come to an agreement, they can enter into a Parenting Plan. Parenting Plans are written agreements which deal with issues such as where the child lives and who the child communicates or spends time with. A Parenting Plan can include a grandparent or other relative of the child, but the plan must be agreed to and signed by both parents, so grandparents can only be included if all the parties, including both parents, agree.
Parenting Plans are not binding or enforceable, but they can be taken into account if a matter does end up in court.
If there is no agreement, grandparents can apply to court for orders that their grandchildren live with or spend time with them. This can be done whether the parents of the children are together or separated.
This can be a difficult process, especially if a relationship breakdown has caused the extended family to be alienated. It’s recommended that grandparents in this situation get support and advice from the outset.
DDCS Lawyers specialise in all aspects of family law and can advise you on your rights as a parent, grandparent or relative to meet the best interests of the children. If you need assistance, contact our team on (02) 6212 7600 to book a consultation.