In Australia, grandparents have legal rights to approach courts under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) for orders that they be allowed to spend time with their grandchildren. It is important to note that grandparents (and other significant adults in the lives of children) do not have an automatic right to spend time with children; rather they have standing to seek orders from the Courts.
That grandparents should so frequently have to resort to court action to see their grandchildren is cause for alarm and a concern in Australian society.
Grandparents’ reasons for seeking the intervention of the Family Courts to see their grandchildren are many and varied but usually involve being unjustly excluded from the lives of their grandchildren. In many instances the only times grandparents can see their grandchildren are at school events such as sports days and speech nights but clearly this is not good enough for either the children or their grandparents.
Unfortunately, some parents take a disliking towards the grandparents of their children and want to fence the children off from other family members. It is important that children have the opportunity to interact with their grandparents and other relatives to understand their heritage and to receive a balanced view of the world.
Family lawyers are often approached by concerned grandparents who are seeking advice on how to break through these unreasonable barriers set up by parents who try to exclude “interfering” grandparents. Fortunately the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) provides some options for these concerned grandparents.
It is not always necessary to go to the Family Court to gain access to see and have a relationship with your grandchildren.
The Family Law Act promotes the resolution of family law disputes by mediation, which is where everyone sits down with a qualified mediator to attempt to resolve any conflict surrounding what is in the best interests of the child.
The result of this early dispute resolution process often results in the parties reaching an agreement about grandparents spending time with their grandchildren. This agreement can be included in a Parenting Plan setting out where the child lives and when the child communicates with or spends time with their parents and grandparents.
In the event that no agreement is reached at mediation than it may be necessary to make an application to the Family Court seeking an order as to when you can communicate with or spend time with your grandchildren.
The rights of grandparents under the Family Law Act are fairly new which is why it is best to seek qualified legal advice if you are a grandparent seeking communication and contact with your grandchildren. Experienced family lawyers can explain the legal process involved in gaining contact with your grandchildren and your rights under the Family Law Act.