A common fear of grandparents is that when their children’s relationship ends, so will their rights to access their grandchildren and have a meaningful relationship with them. These fears are not unfounded for some, as a former spouse may not be willing to facilitate an ongoing relationship with the child’s other parent, let alone their grandparent. However, this situation is not a lost cause, as grandparents do have the right to access their grandchildren by law.
The purpose of this article is to shed some light on the topic of grandparents rights to access grandchildren and provide some guidance on what you can do if you are being denied access to them.
Does The Law Recognise Grandparents Rights To Access Children
In accordance with the Family Law Act (1975), children have the right to maintain regular communications with people who are determined essential for their development, welfare and care. As such, this can encapsulate grandparents. Unfortunately, grandparents rights to access grandchildren do not automatically arise. Accordingly, grandparents will need to pursue a matter in Court if either parent denies them access to their grandchildren.
Do I Have To Pursue The Matter In Court?
Legal action is not required. You may attempt to reach an informal solution yourself with your grandchildren’s parents. If an agreement cannot be made, then the matter may be determined in a mediation session. Mediation is recommended in such scenarios because it is far less costly and time-consuming when compared to traditional litigation. Another benefit of mediation is that if a solution is reached in the session, it may be formalised in the form of consent orders of a parenting plan, which can then be lodged with the Family Court of Australia.
What If The Matter Cannot Be Resolved In Mediation?
If an agreement was unable to be reached in a mediation session, the following steps would be to pursue the matter in Court, where the child’s best interests will be considered in making a determination. Before considering legal action, you should obtain advice from an experienced family solicitor to advise you on the case’s prospects and whether your matter is worth pursuing.
Grandparents Custody And Visitation Rights
The Family Law Act requires grandparents to apply for parenting orders to obtain custody or visitation rights of their grandchildren in cases where the parents of the children deny access. In such a case, the courts will consider the children’s best interests in arriving at a decision.
The best interests of the child encapsulate the following factors:
- If there is a need to protect the child from family violence, abuse, neglect or any other form of harm
- The age, opinions, views and child’s level of understanding of the situation
- The child’s relationship with their grandparents and the impact on the child because of any changes in those arrangements
- The benefit of the child having a meaningful relationship with their grandparents balanced with the factors above
What Does Parental Responsibility Refer To?
The Court may make an order granting sole parental responsibility to the child’s grandparents. Practically, this means the grandparents will have the legal authority to decide for their grandchildren in all the areas mentioned below without consulting the child’s parents.
Parental responsibility refers to all the major decisions concerning a child and includes factors such as:
- The welfare of the child
- Deciding what school the child will attend
- Who will primarily care for the child
- Any major medical decisions
- The living arrangements of the child
Do Any Financial Assistance Schemes Exist For Grandparents?
If a grandparent has sole parental responsibility or full custody of their grandchildren, there are a number of financial support benefits they may be eligible for. These include:
- Child Support to be paid by the child’s parents
- Family Tax Benefits
- Double Orphan pension scheme
- The Grandparent child care benefit
To determine whether you are eligible for any of these schemes or benefits, you should consult a family lawyer to discuss your particular circumstances. Alternatively, contact Centrelink directly.
Importance of Seeking Legal Advice
When discussing matters such as grandparent’s rights to access grandchildren, it is essential to note that every situation will not have a clear-cut answer that applies to every scenario. To get the best account of the prospects of your case, you should speak with an experienced family lawyer about your particular circumstances.
Here at JB Solicitors, we’ll make the process as pain-free as possible. We have fixed-fee pricing for family law, giving you a clear sense of the costs from the start, and we will be sure to help you out every step of the way. With years of experience under our belt, we pride ourselves on making each client’s family law experience as positive as possible.
Contact JB Solicitors today to speak with one of our friendly and experienced family lawyers.
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