The rights of grandparents in modern families
In circumstances where parents are unable to care for their own children, grandparents are also increasingly becoming full-time carers, and it’s important they know their legal rights. While in the past, grandparents were more often called upon by busy parents to assist in times of need such as during sickness or disability, unfortunately in modern times grandparents are often taking on more of a full-time parenting role due to alcohol or drug addictions affecting their own children.
So where do grandparents stand in the eyes of the law? Under the Family Law Act in Australia, grandparents can make an application to the courts to have time with children and even step in to the full time carer role, when parents can no longer look after their children. The legal expression you may hear is that ‘parenting orders are made in favour of grandparents’.
The Family Court recognises the close bond that children and grandparents can share, and as such, grandparents can make the same applications as children’s parents. Grandparents can seek orders from the Family Court to have the parental responsibility and full-time care of the child. There are some notable limitations however. Grandparents’ rights aren’t enshrined at law like parents’ rights and obligations are. For example, where the law says that children have the right to know their parents and form meaningful relationships with them, it doesn’t also say this about grandparents. The presumption of equal shared parental responsibility does not apply to grandparents, the way it can to parents. These legal differences can have different outcomes in court.
However, grandparents can always bring an application, being persons interested in the welfare of the children. The Family Law act recognises that children have important attachments to grandparents and other extended family members and that it’s important children maintain a meaningful relationship with them. In such cases, grandparents can make an application to have time with the kids, and the courts will consider such application so long as it is in the best interests of the child.
If the parents are opposed to such application, the courts will look at the stresses such opposition will have on the kids in the middle. However, if the children benefit greatly from an existing grandparent relationship, the court may make orders which preserve the time the children spend with the grandparent. The court will look at the overall picture, and what scenario will meet the “children’s best interests” tests.
For more information, or to discuss your particular situation, please contact Alliance Family Law.