If you are a grandparent and face the sad circumstance of a relationship breakdown in your family, you may be worried about your right to continue seeing much-loved grandchildren. Unfortunately, some grandparents only see their grandchildren at school events or from the sideline at sporting events.
In Australia, grandparents have legal rights to approach the Court for an order that they be allowed to spend time with their grandchildren. If you have concerns about the welfare of your grandchildren, you may be concerned about how to help protect them.
A parenting Order in relation to a child may be applied for by either or both of the child’s parents, by a grandparent, or any other person concerned with the care, welfare and development of a child.
While the law focuses on the child’s best interests and well-being, this includes a child’s right to know and have contact with both parents and others seen as significant for their care and development, including grandparents.
Parents who are separating often make plans for the future care of their children informally, and will agree on where their children will live and the time they will spend with each parent. Some may draw up a parenting plan setting out their agreed parenting arrangements. They can also formalise their arrangements by recording their agreement in Consent Orders to be lodged with the Court resulting in sealed Court Orders being issued.
If you are concerned about your future contact with your grandchildren, you can ask to be included in such parenting plans or Consent Orders if they are being drawn up. If you cannot agree with separating parents about your future contact with the children, you can apply to the Court for parenting orders yourself.
The Court has regard to the importance of children having contact with their extended family and the benefit of the child growing up feeling part of an extended and supportive family network.
The law requires that families first attend family dispute resolution, or mediation, before going to court. An independent person trained in helping families discuss their differences will try to help everyone come to an agreement. You will need a certificate from an accredited Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) practitioner to show that you have attempted mediation before you can commence court proceedings.
If mediation fails, you will need to obtain legal advice before going to court. You will not need a certificate of dispute resolution if there is a fear of violence or the matter is urgent, or a party cannot take part in mediation because of a disability.
You need advice about your prospects of success in making an application to the Court, what forms and documents you will need to lodge to support your case, the type of orders you should ask for, and the costs involved in commencing proceedings. Even if you decide to represent yourself in court, it is recommended that you obtain legal advice.
It is important to remember that the child’s best interests are always the first priority. You will also need to consider the practicalities of being able to implement any arrangements you wish to make. If you are concerned about you grandchildren’s welfare for any reason, or know people who are, please call us on (02) 8014 5885 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.