Yes, however the first thing we need to clarify is that when we talk about rights, it is the right of a child to have a meaningful relationship with a grandparent, not the right of the grandparent to have a relationship with the child. This might sound pedantic but it is an important distinction and one that you will need to know if you end up being self-represented.
The good news is, the Family Law Act specifically recognises 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 such as grandparents and other relatives. s60B(2)(b).
Grandparents are specifically included in the list of people who can apply to the court for a parenting order. S65C(ba).
Everything that is done for children in the family law context is in accordance with what is in the child’s best interests. The Family Law Act tells us how the court determines what’s in a child’s best interests and the factors that specifically mention grandparents are:
- the nature of the relationship of the child with other people including any grandparent. s60CC(3)(b)(ii);
- the likely effect if any change in the child’s circumstances including the likely effect of any separation from a grandparent with whom he or she has been living: s60CC(3)(d)(ii);
- the capacity of a grandparent to provide for the needs of the child including emotional and intellectual needs; s60CC(3)(f)(ii); and
- the court must consider the child’s right to enjoy his or her culture including the right to enjoy that culture with other people who share it, which is often grandparents. s60CC(3)(h)(i);
One of the things a court will also decide is parental responsibility, in other words making decisions in relation to major issues for a child. The court will make an order for a grandparent to have parental responsibility, if that is in the child’s best interests.
Grandparents have a very important role to play in the life of a child. If parents are unable to care for a child for any reason, the next best option is often a grandparent.
The usual cases we see is when the parent of your grandchild is not your son or daughter. The other common scenario is when you have taken on the role of caring for your grandchild because of either your own child’s inability to do so or the other parent or both, and then they consider they are now able to resume care of the child and you do not think it is in your grandchild’s best interests.
It is important to seek legal advice if there’s any family law dispute involving your grandchild.