Family law disputes can not only disrupt the time each parent spends with their children but also the grandparents’ ability to do so. A child’s relationship with their grandparents often constitutes a substantial part of the child’s life, and very often grandparents play the role of substitute caregivers providing a middle ground for children trapped in their parents’ family law matters. But what legal rights do grandparents have in gaining access to the children caught up in such matters?
Your Right of Access
Though grandparents do not have an automatic right of access to their grandchildren, it is explicitly drafted into the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) that children have a right to spend time with and speak to their grandparents as people significant to their care, welfare and development. Therefore grandparents have the right to apply to the Court for orders setting out that their grandchildren shall spend time with them, communicate with them or to live with them. This is known as the grandparents’ standing.
Common Types of Grandparent Applications
The two most common types of access to grandchildren sought by grandparents are:
- Applications for communication and time spent, commonly sought when the parents are preventing the children from developing beneficial relationships with their grandparents; and
- Applications for parental responsibility, sought by grandparents when they consider that the parents are incapable, unable or unwilling to provide care for the children.
How Strong is Your Standing?
The most important factor that the Court will consider when determining whether to grant grandparents access to the children is whether or not this will be in the children’s best interests. This is a constant for all family law matters concerning children.
It follows that each grandparent’s standing will vary case by case. The Court will closely examine each child’s relationship with their parents and grandparents in determining whether it would be best for their wellbeing to interact with their grandparents.
Factors the Court may also consider include:
- Whether the child’s physical, psychological and financial wellbeing will benefit from spending time with their grandparent/s;
- The children’s views on the matter provided they are capable of reliably conveying their views;
- Whether the lack of grandchild-grandparent interaction is due to a parent-grandparent relationship breakdown;
- Whether the parent/s are unable or unwilling to act as primary caregiver/s;
- Whether the grandparent has acted previously as primary caregiver;
- Whether the parents are suffering from any mental or physical health issues, or from a substance abuse problem; and/or
- Any evidence that the child has been exposed to abuse, neglect or other negative influences in the care of their parent/s.
Financial Assistance Available to You
Should you be able to obtain an order from the Court providing you with partial or full-time care of your grandchildren, you may apply to Centrelink for financial assistance such as:
- Child Support;
- Family Tax Benefit;
- The Grandparent Child Care Benefit; and/or
- Double Orphan Pension.
If your grandchild has a medical condition or disability, you may also apply for the following from Centrelink:
- Carer Adjustment Payments;
- Carer Allowance;
- Carer Supplement;
- Carer Payments; and/or
- Child Disability Assistance Payments.
So What Next?
We understand that matters concerning the wellbeing of your grandchildren are time-sensitive and that you require an experienced and caring family law team on your side.
If you are a grandparent and want to know if you have standing to gain more access to your grandchildren, Websters Lawyers is here to help. Our family law specialists are ready to provide you with a free no obligation consultation so that you can be confident you are getting the right help from the right people. Call 8231 1363 today or contact us here.