Grandparents are important people in children’s lives and can play a significant role in family law matters. The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) contains provisions allowing grandparents certain rights in relation to their grandchildren.
Rights of Grandparents Under the Family Law Act
The Family Law recognises that children have the right to maintain regular communication with people who are considered important to their welfare, care and development. However, this does not mean that grandparents have an automatic right to spend time with their grandchildren.
Unless there are allegations of abuse or violence, it would be unusual for the court not to make an order for a child to spend time with their grandparent. Among the factors that the court will consider is the nature of the relationship between the grandparent and child, including whether it is ongoing and of significant value to the child. In some cases, it may be necessary for grandparents to apply for access or custody of grandchildren where the parent is:
- Unwilling to care for the child;
- Unable to provide for or care for the child; or
- Lacking the capacity to care for the child.
Alternative Dispute Resolution options
Through mediation or settlement negotiations with your children and their spouse, you may be able to reach mutually agreed arrangements about the time you spend and communication you have with your grandchildren. The agreement you reach can be included in a written agreement called a parenting plan which is a formal agreement between your children and their spouse. A parenting plan is not legally binding or enforceable but will be considered by a court if there are later disputes.
Applying to the Court
If you have been prevented from seeing your grandchildren, you are able to rely on the Family Law Act 1975 to apply to the court. You may seek orders that allow you to communicate with your grandchildren, spend time with them, or in some circumstances even live with them. As a grandparent, you are able to do this whether or not the parents of the children are together or separated.
What often occurs when a family relationship breaks down is that the grandparents will only be able to spend time with their grandchildren when their child is spending time with them. The Family Law Act 1975 recognises the importance of children having a relationship with their extended family members including grandparents, however, what is in the best interests of the child will remain the court’s priority.
We know that the divorce process can be strenuous for both parties. If you would like more information on how we can assist you with your property settlement matter or any other family law matters, do not hesitate to contact us on 9963 9800 or via our contact page.