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It is without doubt that a special bond can exist between grandparents and grandchildren. When that bond exists, grandparents generally want to spend as much time as possible with their grandchildren and, of course, spoil them.
It is quite common for grandparents to assist their children and grandchildren by collecting them from school at least once a week and joining them in an activity or having dinner together.
Grandparents do this for a number of reasons including having one on one time with their grandchildren and also to be involved in their day to day lives. It is a cheaper arrangement for the parents than paying for before and after school care or a nanny. This is particularly true if both parents are working and grandparents are able to assist.
So what happens when the parents separate?
Unless there are some risk concerns about one of the parent’s capacity to parent the children appropriately, it is unlikely that a grandparent will become a party to any Court proceedings. However, take note of section 65C(ba) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) which bestows grandparents with jurisdiction to file proceedings in relation to their grandchildren’s ‘live with’ and ‘spend time with’ arrangements, and also to be granted parental responsibility, if appropriate in that case.
The agreed or ordered arrangements for the children, either on an interim or final basis, will determine whether the arrangements with grandparents will continue. Generally speaking, when children are in one parent’s care, they will spend time with that parent’s family members in that designated time. Conversely, when the children are in the other parent’s care, they are able to spend time with that parent’s family members. Unless it is agreed by the other parent, it is unlikely that a maternal grandparent will be able to spend time with the grandchildren when in the father’s care.
So what about the children’s relationship with their grandparents? Where there are no risk concerns for the children spending time with either parent, a court is unlikely to put a grandparent’s and child relationship above a child and parent relationship. It is for each of the parents to foster the relationship between grandchildren and grandparents in their time with the children.
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