When parents separate, occasionally it can affect grandparents such that they no longer get to spend regular time with their grandchildren.
If the parties are amicable and reach a parenting agreement it is usually documented by way of Consent Orders. Under the Family Law Act, grandparents are deemed to be people that are significant persons in the children’s lives, so it is possible to include an order specifically relating to the children spending time or have communication with their grandparents. For example, the Order may say:
“ The children are to spend time with the paternal grandparents from 9am until 4pm on the third Sunday of each month and are at liberty to have regular telephone calls to the paternal grandparents in accordance with their wishes.”
What if the Order is breached by one of the parents?
As with any Court Orders, if the parties do not ensure the Orders for the children to spend time and communicate with their grandparents are complied with, then there are penalties that the Court can impose, unless the parent responsible for the breach has a reasonable excuse for the breach and does not continue with the breach longer than necessary. A reasonable excuse may be that they were protecting the safety of the children.
Can I do anything if there isn’t even a parenting agreement yet?
If the parties are in high conflict such that they cannot reach a parenting agreement, then a grandparent can file a Court Application seeking leave to be made a party to any existing Court Proceedings or can start their own Court Proceedings in regards to their grandchildren. They may seek various Orders including for the grandchildren to live with them, or spend regular time with them or to have communication with them. Often the reason for a grandparent becoming involved in Court Proceedings for their grandchildren is because they have reason to believe one or both parents are unable to keep the children safe or look after the children properly due to alcohol or drug abuse and /or mental health issues.
Other things to consider
As with any Parenting proceedings, before making any Orders, the Court will consider what is in the children’s best interests, how to ensure that the children are protected from harm and that they maintain (where possible) a meaningful relationship with their parents. The Court will also consider other factors such as the age and maturity of the children, whether there has been family violence and any allegations of child abuse or substance abuse or mental health issues involving the parents.
If you are concerned about your grandchildren and want some advice about your rights, then call the Preston Family Law team on 07 4052 0700 for a free consultation. There are also grandparent community groups that may be able to provide assistance and/or support to you.