Some grandparents care for grandchildren as much as parents do. However, there can be conflicts between the parents, or between a parent and the grandparents, which can create barriers for grandparents to see their grandchildren. In these situations, do grandparents have an absolute right for contact with their grandchildren?
Nothing in the Family Law Act specifically grants grandparents the right to see their grandchildren. Grandparents can bring an application to the court to see them, but the court does not have to grant the grandparents a Contact Order.
How can grandparents establish a meaningful relationship with their grandchildren?
If there are disputes that are preventing grandparents from seeing their grandchildren, they should try to work out a solution with the parents. If a reasonable solution cannot be reached, mediation services are available to help the parties decide on a resolution.
Should the grandparents’ son or daughter die, or is an absentee parent, grandparents may apply for a contact order under the Family Law Act if all other efforts to see their grandchildren are unsuccessful. However, their situation must meet certain criteria:
- The parent(s) are the legal guardians of the children
- The guardians are living separate and apart or one of the guardians has died
- The grandparents’ contact with the children has been interrupted by this separation or death.
What do grandparents need to prove in order to be successful when pursuing a court order for contact?
The grandparents will not be granted a contact order unless they can show that:
- Contact between the children and the grandparents is in “the best interests of the child”
- The child’s physical, psychological or emotional health may be endangered if contact is not permitted; and
- The denial of contact between the grandparents and the children is unreasonable
The court will determine the amount of time that grandparents will have with their grandchildren. For example, if one parent only has limited time with the children, then this set of grandparents may only have limited time as well.
What if parents don’t want their children to see their grandparents?
The courts generally believe that parents should be allowed to make decisions about their children. It can be challenging for grandparents in this situation to obtain a contact order. They must apply to the court for permission, or leave, to apply for a contact order before they can apply for the contact order itself.
Leave to apply for a contact order will only be granted if:
- The grandparents can show that there is a significant relationship between the child and the grandparents, and
- It is necessary for a contact order to be made as there is no other way for contact to occur
How is acontact order be enforced?
The parents of the children must obey a contact order. The best solution is for the parents comply and allow the grandparents to see their grandchildren for the time allotted.
The grandparents can apply for an enforcement order if the parents do not obey the contact order. The police can then help grandparents to contact their grandchildren.
Grandparents who are having difficulties seeing their grandchildren should contact an experienced family lawyer for guidance and help in this difficult situation. They may be able to bring the parents and grandparents together without legal strife through mediation. If not, they can assist grandparents with their legal options to obtain contact with their grandchildren.