The Family Law Act states that children have a right to spend time on a regular basis with, and communicate on a regular basis with, both their parents and other people significant to their care, welfare and development including grandparents. Since the grandchildren obviously aren’t in a position to enforce that right and if the parents are not facilitating the contact with the grandparents, it will be up to the grandparent to take action to do so. But don’t just sit there and hope for the best- the longer you leave it, the weaker your case gets.
The first step is to attempt to resolve the matter by way of Mediation with a qualified Family Dispute Resolution mediator. If the Mediation is not successful, then unfortunately you may have little option but to commence Family Court proceedings.
To succeed in the Family Court, the grandparents must satisfy the court that they are significant adults in the lives of the grandchildren and that such time would be beneficial. The court will consider:
- The likely effect of any changes in the child’s circumstances, including the likely effect on the child of any separation from any grandparent with whom they have been living.
- The capacity of any other person, including any grandparent, to provide for the needs of the child, including emotional and intellectual needs.
In many cases well-meaning grandparents who make such an application to the courts come up against vigorous opposition from the parents of the children in question. There are many reasons for such opposition but alcohol, abuse, drug addiction, family & domestic violence and poor relations between the grandparents and their own children (the parents of the grandchildren) are often at least partially to blame.
If it can be shown that the grandparents have historically been involved in the life of the grand-children, the Court will be inclined to allow the grandparent to continue this relationship despite the breakdown of the parent’s relationship and their subsequent refusal to let the grandchildren spend time with the grandparents.
If you’re not sure what your options are, don’t rely on Heather down the road for advice - make sure you see a lawyer who actually knows what they’re talking about. Little birdies generally cause more problems than not, so set up your case properly from the beginning.