“Grandparents have rights too”

Grandmother reading to 2 boys illustrating that grandparents play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren

How the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) recognises grandparents and the importance of a meaningful relationship with grandchildren.

Grandparents sometimes are concerned about their relationship with a grandchild being impacted following the separation of the child’s parents. Alternatively, they may be concerned with the capacity of the child’s parents to properly care for a grandchild.

Both parents and grandparents have the ability to commence parenting matters in the family courts.  In any family law dispute about a child, the Court will be primarily concerned about the best interests if the child. One of the factors in determining the child’s best interests is that the child have a meaningful relationship with his/her extended family including grandparents.

Grandparents are able to apply for orders seeking that a child live with them or for orders that a child spend particular time with them.

Such an application may be made by grandparents whether the parents of the child or children are separated. It is important to note, however, that the case law indicates that in cases where the relationship between the child’s parents is intact, the Court will be assessing carefully the existing relationship between the child’s parents and the grandparents. If there is conflict in the relationship between the child’s parents and the child’s grandparents, the Court will be carefully considering the impact the conflict may have on the child.

The Court may choose, and sometimes it does choose, not to intervene in such cases and dismiss the grandparents’ application.

There are a variety of circumstances that may give rise to a grandparent’s application. These may include risk of harm or concern for the child welfare, kinship care options or just wanting to have regular contact with a grandchild.

The first point of call for any parenting matter involving issues in dispute about the care arrangements for a child is mediation. Parties are required to participate in mediation or family dispute resolution prior to filing an application with the Court.. There are exceptions to this requirement, for example in cases of family violence, or where the location of a party is unknown.

At Elringtons, we have experience in advising grandparents with respect to family law matters. We have represented grandparents in a variety of matters from acting for a grandparent and advocating for them to be the primary carers of their grandchildren when there is a risk of harm posed by a parent; to advising grandparents on their rights to have a relationship and have contact with the grandchildren against parental resistance.

You can contact one of our experienced family law solicitors on 02 6206 1300, if you have any questions about your rights as grandparents.

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