In 2006, the amendment in the Family Law Act 1975 (the Act), gave importance to the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. Apart from this, it also recognised various rights of grandchildren including their right to meet their grandparents. The new amendment focuses to resolve issues in a circumstance, where grandparents are unable to spend time with or communicate with their grandchildren after the separation or divorce of the parents of such grandchildren. If you are a grandparent and you are concerned about your grandchild’s well-being, then this article will help you to understand different laws concerning your right as well as inform you on the legal options available.
Right to Spend Time with and Communicate with GrandchildrenThe Act states that children have a right to spend time and communicate on a regular basis with their parents and also with the extended family members including grandparents. However, grandparents do not have an automatic right to spend time with their grandchildren. Such situation arises due to the divorce or separation of the grandchildren’s parents. In such circumstances, grandparents may put forward an application before the Court on the grounds that they are concerned about the well-being of the children. Whether to refuse a relationship between the grandparents and the grandchildren or to pass Orders for the grandchildren to spend time with their grandparents is decided by the Court taking into consideration the best interests of the children. One of the common ways to maintain your relationship with your grandchild is by Parenting Plans. Parenting Plans are not binding or enforceable in the Court, but due consideration is given to such methods, if the matter ends up in the Court. The other alternative is Parenting Orders. At first, you should try to seek an agreement with the parents to make arrangements for spending time with your grandchildren. You can also seek assistance from a Family Relationship Centre. All parties will be invited to attend a mediation session and if an agreement is reached, you can enter into a Parenting Plan. Such plans can also be written down in an agreement form and be registered in the Court. If the parents do not agree to this plan or agreement, then you have the option to apply to the Court for Parenting Orders. You can do this by filing an application to the Court with a supporting Affidavit.
The Court after taking into consideration the best interests of a child will take decision on the following issues:
Apart from the exceptional circumstances, the parties must attempt mediation before making any application before the Court.
- Where the child will live;
- With whom the child will spend time;
- Who will be the primary caregiver of the child;
- The mode of communication; and
- Any other aspect of the child’s care, welfare and development.