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    I want to see my grandchildren


    Are you in the situation where you want to see your grandchildren, but one or both of the parents are saying no?  What can you do as a grandparent in this situation?

    Grandparents’ ability to take action is included in the Family Law Act.  The Act provides Courts with the power to make orders about the time a child spends with other people including Grandparents.   

    Grandparents are able to apply to the court for parenting orders in relation to their grandchildren in the same way that parents are able to. Before making such an application a Grandparent must first invite the parents to participate in mediation to try and reach agreement on what time they can spend with their grandchildren. Mediation can be avoided in only limited circumstances.

    The two most common types of orders that Grandparents can apply for are:

    • An application to spend time with and communicate with their grandchildren.
      This occurs when the parent or parents refuse to allow the child to have a meaningful relationship with the grandparent.
    • An application to be entrusted with parental responsibility for the grandchildren.
      This may occur when either or both of the parents are unable to parent the children because of disability, substance abuse or where the children are unsafe in the parent’s care.

    The principles that the Courts apply when deciding on orders in relation to Grandparents are the same as those applied in matters between parents.  The Courts must make orders which are in the child’s best interests.  The Court will weigh up a whole range of factors in order to determine whether it is in the child’s best interests to have a meaningful relationship with his or her grandparents.   If old enough, the child’s views will be taken into account by the Court when making its decision.  A Court will also consider the impact that the order will have on the conflict between the parents and the Grandparents as well as the effect on the child.

    When the parents are opposed to a child spending time with a Grandparent, the Courts typically only provide for limited time or no time at all depending on the level of conflict, the behaviour of the parties and what is in the child’s best interests.

    In some cases the Court will even order that the children live with the Grandparents and spend limited or supervised time with their parents. This occurs in situations where the parents do not have the capacity to care for the children.

    In our experience, the best way to deal with a dispute of time that a Grandparent wishes to spend with a child should be resolved through mediation or negotiation.  Councillors experienced in family therapy should be part of the first step in attempting to resolve the dispute.  Once the matter goes before a court, relations with the parents will only become more entrenched making compromise difficult and damaging any hope of reconciliation.  Also if the matter does enter the Court system, the costs of pursuing time with grandparents can be very expensive particularly if you are unsuccessful.

    At ReesLaw we have assisted numerous grandparents and parents when there have been disputes over spending time with children.  An experienced family lawyer can assist in making this process easier for all concerned.  Call us today for advice on this or any other family law issue.

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