When there has been a relationship breakdown which has resulted in grandparents being prevented from seeing their grandchildren, a grandparent may seek access to the grandchildren through the Courts if needs be.
This is because the Family Law Act recognises that children have a right to spend time with significant persons in their lives, which can include grandparents.
In determining a grandparent’s application to spend time with their grandchildren, the Court will consider the best interests of a child. To a large extent this is determined by assessing:
- the benefit that the child would receive in spending time with the grandparent and any impact on the relationship that the child would have with their own parents or siblings etc;
- the wishes of the child (taking into account their age, maturity and understanding of the situation);
- whether there is any risk or need to protect a child from physical or psychological harm and/or from being exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence;
- the relationship between the grandparent and their adult child and the grandchild’s other parent;
- whether the relationship between the grandparent and the parents of the child (or other extended family members) has become so irretrievably broken that exposing the child to conflict between the adults in question would not be in the best interests of the child; and
- if the relationship has broken, what are the reasons for that breakdown and is there a need to protect the grandchild from any physical or psychological harm, abuse, neglect or family violence.
The Court may also look at ways to mend the broken relationships by ordering family counselling and obtaining evidence from experts such as psychologists or psychiatrists. This is a difficult area of family law and we encourage any grandparent seeking to spend time with a grandchild that has become estranged from them, to seek legal advice.