The bond between grandparents & grandchildren is special & quite unlike any other relationships. What happens when that bond, that connection between a grandparent and their grandchild, is threatened or severed? What rights do grandparents have, in the eyes of law, to see their grandchildren?
When parents decide to end their marriage by getting a divorce, it could sometimes adversely affect the grandparent-grandchild relationship as well. If a parent does not allow the grandparents access to their grandchildren, can the court intervene?
The Family Law Amendment Act 2006
The Family Law Amendment Act 2006 brought about important changes to the Family Law Act. One such change was that “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, including grandparents.”
What this means is that, if your relationship with your grandchildren is deemed essential for their wellbeing & development, then the court will take that into consideration when making decisions about the child’s living arrangement & visitation rights.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Relationship with Your Grandchildren?
Of course, there are things you can do to protect your relationship with your grandchildren.
Request to Be Included in A Parenting Plan
A Parenting Plan is basically a written agreement, signed by both parents. Most Parenting Plans discuss the children’s living arrangements, how important decisions regarding the child’s life will be made, & who the child/children communicate & spend time with. If you’re worried about how your adult child’s divorce will affect your relationship with your grandchildren, you can request to be included in the Parenting Plan. Clear guidelines can be set out as to the communication between you & the grandchildren & your rights to visit them or to have them visit you on a regular basis. Doing this will give everyone clarity & can help avoid a lot of friction & stress between concerned parties. Please note that Parenting Plans are not legally binding, although the courts will take them into consideration while making their ruling.
Getting a court order
In the absence of a Parenting Plan or when one or both parents refuse to allow grandparents access to their grandchildren, grandparents can apply to get a court order. Grandparents can cite that their relationship with the grandchildren is crucial for the children’s “care, welfare and development”, and hence they should be allowed to see, communicate & spend time with their grandchildren.