Divorce is a very traumatic time for a family and it affects everyone – the couple, the children, family friends, and of course, the grandparents. Grandparents can provide a haven for children to feel comforted and supported in the entire divorce swirl. Although their role in the grandchildren’s life is important, it is too often ignored when it comes to contact rights after a separation between the parents.
The courts uphold the importance of children maintaining contact with as much of their wider family as possible and of growing up feeling part of an extended and supportive family group. Therefore, Grandparents do have legal rights. Whilst you do not have an automatic right to spend time with your grandchildren, you do have the right to approach the courts for orders that you be allowed to spend time with your grandchildren.
It is up to the court to decide what should happen, based on what it thinks is in the child’s best interests. An order may enable you to have some visits, or communicate with your grandchild, perhaps by phone or email. If there is a proven relationship between you and your grandchildren prior to the separation, the chances that contact rights will be granted by the court are higher.
You can also apply for your grandchildren to live or spend time with you whether their parents are together or separated. You will not need a certificate of dispute resolution if there is a fear of violence or the matter is urgent, or a party can’t take part in mediation because of a disability.
What is the process?
If you are having issues spending time with your grandchildren, you should seek legal advice.
Parents who are separating often make plans for the future care of their children through a parenting plan. If you are concerned about your future contact with your grandchildren, you can ask to be included in such plans if they are being drawn up.
If you can’t agree with separating parents about your future contact with your grandchildren, you can apply to the courts for parenting orders yourself. This does not mean though that the courts will necessarily decide in your favour.
The law requires that families first attend family dispute resolution, or mediation, before going to court. You will need a certificate from an accredited dispute resolution practitioner to show you’ve attempted mediation before you can take court action.
If mediation fails, you should seek further legal advice. An experienced family lawyer can advise you on:
• how strong your case is
• what forms and documents you will need to lodge with the court to support your case (affidavits)
• what orders you should ask for
• which court is best to open the case in
• the costs of taking legal action
Even if you decide to represent yourself in Court, it is recommended to get legal advice about how to prepare your case.
If you are concerned about you grandchildren’s welfare for any reason, or know people who are, please contact our experienced family lawyer, Mark Orchard, for a free 20 minute initial consultation.
Phone: 07 4639 0358