Grandparents play an important role in their grandchildren’s lives. Some grandparents raise their grandchildren, while others only see them on special occasions. Unfortunately, if the parents separate or divorce, this can have a profoundly negative impact on grandparents being able to see their grandchildren. They may go from seeing them on a daily basis to seeing them very rarely, if at all. If you are being denied access to your grandchildren, there are ways for you gain access to them.
The Family Law Act 1975 is the legislation that is used to govern who can access children. Grandparents can use this legislation to apply for a court order regarding their grandchildren.
The Act states the following regarding its objectives:
“The principles underlying these objects are that (except when it is or would be contrary to a child’s best interests):
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)”
The overarching focus of the act is on “the best interests of the child”. All provisions aim to achieve this interest above all others. For example, if the court decides that it is in the best interest of Child X to refrain from any contact with their father, then the court will make an order to this effect. Conversely, if the court believes that it is beneficial for the child to see their grandparents once a week for 2 hours, they will be a court order to this degree.
It is important to note that grandparents do not have an automatic right to be in contact with their grandchildren. However, the children do have a right to have a relationship with their grandparents, if it is in their best interests.
In order to maintain a relationship with your grandchild you can do the following:
- Get included in the Parenting Plan – Before taking any formal legal action, you should ask the parents of the child to be in contact with your grandchildren. If the parents are separated or divorced, it is likely that they will have agreed on a Parenting Plan. A Parenting Plan is an agreement that the parents come to which sets out the parenting arrangements for the child. It will include things like where the child will live, when the child will be visited by one of the parents and when they will get to see other important people in their lives. As a grandparent, you can ask to be included in this plan.
- Apply for a court order – If the parents refuse to include you in the Parenting Plan and deny you access to your grandchild, you can apply for a court order. It is best to seek legal advice from a professional before you proceed with this process.