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Family Forum – We want to bond with grandkids

Our son’s marriage ended last year and his ex-wife put a restraining order on him.

Question:

After the court appearance, we were brought back into the picture to help him, so now the Family Court and lawyers are involved. We are heading to a trial. At present our son sees his children one morning a month. We are involved with the visits, picking up the children and dropping them home. Contact has always been in our presence. Sadly, we feel the relationship with our grandchildren is somewhat strained. We do our best to be involved with the kids, and my husband would make a brilliant mentor for his grandson.

Can we as grandparents get separate access to our grandchildren, aside from supporting our son?

Answer:

Grandparents have the right to apply to the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court for parenting orders. Children have a right to spend time and communicate on a regular basis with both parents and other people significant to their care, welfare and development, such as grandparents or other relatives, if it is safe to do so.

In deciding “the best interests of a child”, a court considers the benefit of having a meaningful relationship with both parents, and the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm, and from being subjected to or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence.

Another consideration is the nature of the relationship with persons other than parents, including grandparents, and the capacity of grandparents to provide for the needs of the child, including emotional and intellectual needs.

You would need to establish that you: have the capacity to provide for the needs of your grandchildren; have a close and positive relationship with them; would not undermine their relationship with their parents; and would protect them from harm, from being subjected to or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence.

The normal expectation of the Court would be that your grandchildren’s right to spend time with you can be met during the time they spend with each of their parents and therefore no separate parenting order is necessary.

If there are reasons your time with the children is limited when they are in the care of their father, then it may be appropriate for you to ask your daughter-in-law to agree to your grandchildren spending time with you, separately from the time that they spend with your son. If she does not agree, you may need to make an application to the Court to spend time with your grandchildren separately. However, it would be wise to first seek specific legal advice.

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