Grandparents Rights

Leisa ToomeyThe relationship between a grandchild and a grandparent can be a wonderful thing. In our busy world they are often a necessity as well, particularly when both parents work. However, what happens when the parent’s relationship fails and one of them decides they no longer wish the grandparents to be involved in the children’s lives?

Aside from the hurt the grandparents will feel, the children may also be left bewildered and upset that they can no longer see a person who was so important in their lives. Sadly, for many grandparents this is a reality that they have little choice but to accept.

Whilst the concept of Grandparents Rights is relatively new it has been proven on a number of occasions that grandparents do have rights and many are now seeking legal avenues to assert them.

In 2009 the Federal Government implemented changes that were designed to encourage grandparents to maintain links with their grandchildren, particularly where there were messy family breakups. Under the changes grandparents are able to obtain advice on family law issues and potentially become involved in court proceedings if they believed it would benefit the interests of the child.

Many judges believe that grandparents can often provide a solid foundation for children, particularly where the parent’s relationship is dysfunctional. Grandparents can provide real alternatives as far as living arrangements and child care is concerned and can offer the child or children some stability when their world appears to be crumbling around them.

Grandparents now have access to the Parenting Order Program where families, that are separating and who are going through difficult disputes, are given access to counseling and dispute resolution services. Grandparents also have the right to participate in counseling and family dispute resolution with the children’s parents.

However, it should be noted that a court will consider all aspects of the role a grandparent has played in a child’s life prior to the separation of the parents. Factors such as a documented relationship with the child and whether the grandparents have served as custodial parents or served the role of parents all strengthen their claim to see their grandchildren. If the relationship between the primary caregiver and the grandparents is so bad that it will adversely impact the child the court may not allow the grandparents rights particularly if prior to the separation of the parents the grandparents played no role in the child’s life.

As much as the courts would love to see stability and family in the lives of children, who are going through the traumas of their parent’s divorce or separation, a parent’s rights will generally be greater than that of a grandparent unless the parent is proven unfit. However, for the sake of the children, allowing grandparents to be part of children’s lives can be a beneficial and enriching experience and if