Grandparents play an important role in the lives of children all over Australia. They are often an invaluable resource to parents who need a break or guidance or to assist in the day to day activities for the children, such as before and after school care. It is because of this that the Family Law Act recognises grandparents and has provisions within the Act that sets out rights for grandparents in relation to their grandchildren.
The Act provides that the children have the right to maintain regular contact with people who have had or do have a significant role in their daily care, welfare and development. As grandparents have often been overlooked previously, the Act now specifically includes grandparents in this category. Unfortunately, the Act does not go so far as to provide for an automatic right for the children to see and care for their grandparents, however provides that Grandparents are able to apply to the Court for Orders that allow same.
As with all applications concerning children, the Court must consider whether the Orders sought in the Application are in the children’s best interest. This test may be satisfied if a parent is unable to care for a child, unwilling to care for a child or otherwise should not be caring for a child (such as capacity issues). These circumstances mentioned are not exhaustive, which means that even if you do not satisfy one of the above, you may still be able to apply to the Court for an Order.
In cases such as drug or alcohol abuse, significant levels of violence in the home or if the children are being neglected, the Courts are more likely to consider an Application by the grandparents due to the need to protect the children. In making the Order, the Courts can set out who the children are to live with, who is able to make the long terms decisions concerning the children (such as just the parents or jointly with the grandparents or just the grandparents alone) and also put into place any specific requirements for spending time with one of the parties, such as the need to be supervised at all times.
If you are a grandparent who is being denied the opportunity to see your grandchildren or you have concerns for your grandchildren, please contact our office and we will put you in contact with one of our Family Law Experts who will be able to advise you as to your rights and the correct action to be taken. Call us on 1300 066 669.