When a marriage or a relationship breaks down the impact of the breakdown is not only felt by the parents and any children, but often grandparents will also be inadvertently affected.
Grandparents are often overlooked when it comes to parents navigating time arrangements with children after a separation.
The role of grandparents, in the lives of their grandchildren, can be significant and may include providing childcare so that parents can continue to earn an income, caring for children during school holidays, or they may even be the children’s primary carer.
The Family Law Act 1975 (the Act), outlines in Section 60B(2)(b) that a child has the 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).
While the Act specifically mentions grandparents as people a child should maintain contact with, grandparents do not have any specific rights to contact or spend time with their grandchildren.
While the Act refers to grandparents spending time and communicating with their grandchildren, as stated above, the Act refers to the child as having rights, not the parents or grandparents.
Commonly the children’s time spent with their grandparents is generally left up to being arranged between parents, however when there has been a relationship breakdown and one parent is less available to the children (due to distance, illness, disability, risk, or incarceration, for example), it can be difficult to communicate with the other parent to arrange time. This can lead to children losing an important relationship with their grandparents.
Under the Act, grandparents can apply to the Court for parenting orders concerning their grandchildren. Under section 60CC the Court must consider if the relationship between the children and their grandparents is in the best interests of the children, looking at several factors including, but not limited to:
- The benefit of the children having a meaningful relationship with their grandparents;
- The need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm or being exposed to, abuse neglect or family violence;
- The nature of the relationship with the child/ren;
- The likely effect of changes on the child/ren.
If you are unsure of your rights as a grandparent, please contact one of our experienced family lawyers on 07 5609 4933.