The Family Law Act provides that children have a right to spend time on a regular basis with people significant to their care, welfare and development (such as Grandparents and other relatives). In recent times, Grandparents have been given special recognition in terms of parties who have standing to bring an application pursuant to the Family Law Act in relation to a parenting dispute. In that regard, Grandparents are specified as a particular group that has standing in relation to parenting matters.
The Court is required to consider, when determining what is in the best interests of the child, the right of the child to spend time with their Grandparents. In addition, when making certain Orders concerning what is in a child’s best interest the Court must consider other persons including any Grandparent, 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, and the capacity of any other person including any Grandparent to provide for the needs of the child including emotional and intellectual needs.
It is important to be mindful however that even though the Family Law Act makes specific reference to Grandparents, it is not necessarily the case that Grandparents have an automatic right to spend time with a child.
The Court will always be compelled to consider the best interests of the child in each particular situation. Cases that have previously come before the Courts indicate that in circumstances where there is limited hostility between Grandparents and Parents, there is a greater likelihood of the Court determining that it is in the child’s best interest to have a relationship and spend time with a Grandparent or Grandparents.
A Grandparent’s Application will have much less weight if the Court finds that the Grandparent is causing disruption and disharmony to the Grandchild’s life.
Generally, Grandparents are expected to see their grandchildren at the same time as their own child is spending time with the children, however there may be special circumstances which apply which means that this is not feasible.
Whilst many disputes in relation to arrangements between Grandparents and parents come before the Court, it is not always necessary to go to Court to gain access to see and have a relationship with your grandchild. The Family Law Act promotes the resolution of family Law disputes by way of mediation. This is a process whereby each of the parties to the dispute sit down with a qualified mediator and attempt to resolve any conflict and reach an agreement that reflects the best interest of the child.
Parental conflict where one party is a Grandparent can be complicated and in that regard it is important to obtain expert legal advice in relation to the Court process and in relation to the particular elements relevant to your case.
If you are a concerned Grandparent or significant family member, please do not hesitate to contact North Brisbane Law and we can arrange for you to meet with one of our experienced Family Law Solicitors.