Grandparents and Family Law
Grandparents’ rights to see their grandchildren
When a couple separates or divorces, the rights of any children of the relationship must be put first. If you’re a grandparent, it’s important to understand how grandparents and family law operate in respect of the contact that you’re allowed to have with your grandchildren.
Children’s rights to see grandparents
There are some fundamental children’s rights under Australian family law. Children have the right to:
– Receive care from both parents (regardless of whether the parents are still together as a couple); and
– Spend time with other significant people in their lives, for example, their grandparents
These rights exist because children’s best interests are the most important consideration when a court, or anyone else, is making decisions that affect them.
So you may be surprised to learn that grandparents have no legal rights to see their grandchildren. It’s the grandchildren who, in some situations, have rights to see their grandparents.
If you’re concerned about being able to spend enough time with your grandchildren, you’ll need our legal help to work through the process.
If I’m not allowed to see my grandchild, what can I do?
If your grandchild’s parent or carer is preventing you from seeing your grandchild, you may need to make an application to the Family Court of Australia (FCA) or the Federal Circuit Court (FCC).
This type of application is usually for parenting orders. You may not be applying for custody of your grandchildren, but your application will still fall within this category because you are a significant person in your grandchild’s life.
The court will work out what’s in the children’s best interests. It will consider whether you play a significant role in their care, welfare and development. If you do, a court will probably make orders in your favour, unless other reasons affect your application.
Grandparenting applications is a delicate area of law, so if you believe you need court orders to see your grandchildren, you’ll need legal help as soon as possible. Contact us for advice. We also recommend reviewing the information provided by Legal Aid about grandparents and family law.
If I’m concerned for my grandchild’s welfare or safety, what can I do?
Sometimes, situations may arise that affect how the parents can provide for their child, threatening the children’s care, welfare and development. For example, if the parents:
– Have issues with substance abuse (drugs and alcohol)
– Can’t care for the children due to mental health issues
– Are imprisoned
– Work away from home
If you’re worried about your grandchild, you can try to negotiate with the parents to make an informal arrangement or a parenting plan for access to your grandchild. You can use consent orders to register a parenting plan with a court. This makes the plan legally enforceable.
If the parents won’t cooperate, you may need to consider applying to the court for parenting orders. You can apply for full-time custody, or regular part-time access, depending on what’s appropriate in the situation.
To seek parenting orders, you’ll need our legal assistance as soon as possible. Contact us to find out more.
What happens if I have a grandchild in my care?
If your grandchild comes to live with you, it may be a good idea to apply to a court for permanent orders so that the child remains in your custody. This will depend on the circumstances, and whether it’s in the child’s best interests.
If there’s a court order granting you full custody, you will take on parental responsibility for your grandchild. That means that you’ll be responsible for making all the decisions and providing everything to ensure the child’s care, welfare and development.
Often, finances become an issue for grandparents who find themselves being full-time carers for their grandchildren.
If you’re concerned about financial issues, you may be able to seek child support from the parents. You may be entitled to other benefits, for example, Medicare benefits, childcare payments and Centrelink payments.
We can help you put everything in place to ensure that you can meet your grandchild’s needs. Get in touch for a free first lawyer appointment to find out more about grandparents and family law.