Generally speaking, extended family plays an important role in the lives of children and their upbringing. It is so often the case that grandparents are able to provide a safe, conflict-free environment for children during the course of their parents’ separation. That said, sometimes parents decide to make it extremely difficult (and in some cases virtually impossible) for grandparents to keep in contact with their grandchildren following separation.
Unlike parents, grandparents do not have an automatic right to have contact with their grandchildren. Nevertheless, the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) still recognises the importance of the role that grandparents play in a child’s life and the importance of maintaining such a relationship. In particular, Section 60B(2) of the Act states that “a child has the right to regularly spend time and communicate with other persons significant to their care, welfare and development (such as grandparents and other relatives)” provided always that it is in the best interests of the child.
In addition, the Act provides that grandparents are able to apply to the Court for a Parenting Order in respect of grandchildren. This means that if grandparents are unable to agree with separating parents about future contact with their grandchildren, they can apply to the Court for parenting orders. It is important to keep in mind however that just because a grandparent has made an application to the Court does not necessarily mean that the Court will rule in favour of them. There are many considerations which the Court must take into account when determining what would be in the best interests of a child and each case is different.
Before grandparents can make an application to the Court, is it a prerequisite that all persons to the dispute (not including children) must first participate in Family Dispute Resolution and/or Mediation. Once this process has been completed, an Accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner will issue a Certificate attesting to the fact that the family has attempted to resolve matters out of Court.
If you are having issues surrounding contact with your grandchildren, you should seek further legal advice before proceeding to file an application in the Court. For more information on grandparents rights, or other family law matters, please contact our office for a free initial consultation.