For many children, grandparents are some of the most important people in their lives, playing a significant caring role throughout childhood.
It is then not surprising that issues can often arise when parents run into problems with their relationships, and this may jeopardise the relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild.
So what rights do grandparents have under the Family Law Act (1975)?
A change in legislation
In 2006, changes were introduced to the Family Law Act with the effect that the grandparents can now apply for parenting orders with respect to their grandchildren in their own right. Primarily, the change was made as a way of ensuring that, even if the marriage of the parents broke down, the children could stay in contact with their grandparents.
A right to see grandchildren
Grandparents now have the right to apply to Court to spend time with their grandchildren, as grandparents are now recognised as people significant to their care. It is easy to see why, as grandparents will often be present from birth. As with many matters under the Family Law Act, however, the court has a wide discretion to decide whether in a particular case it would be in the best interests of a child to have contact with their grandparents.
Grandparents will not always need to go to Court in order to actually visit their grandchildren and maintain a relationship with them, if they have a dispute with the children's parents. They can resolve such disputes through mediation. This way, the parents, grandparents and other involved parties will sit down with a mediator and attempt to resolve the matter outside the courts.
After this discussion, it may be possible to develop an agreement which is then put into a Parenting Plan or a set of Consent Orders which will set out when children can spend time with the grandparents, where, and for how long.
To learn more about either your rights as a grandparent or what you need to do in the event of a breakdown of a marriage, it's always a good idea to speak with the experts. In this case, this means professional and experienced family lawyers who understand how to best navigate through the often difficult legal hurdles.