Can Grandparents Apply for Parenting Orders?
Parenting orders are most commonly made between the two parents of a child. However, in some circumstances, there may be other people who wish to apply for parenting orders. The Family Law Act 1975 allows for any person concerned with the care, welfare or development of the child to apply for parenting orders. It also allows for an application to be made by the children themselves. A wide range of people can be considered a person concerned with the care, welfare or development of a child, including step-parents, siblings, other relatives and close family friends.
Types of parenting orders
The two most common types of orders sought by non-parents are orders that the children spend time with the applicant and orders that the applicant has parental responsibility.
Time with the children
An application for parenting orders may be made by a non-parent for the children to spend time and communicate with them. These applications are usually made where the parents, or one of them, are refusing any meaningful relationship between the children and the grandparent or other person. The type of contact likely to be granted by the court will depend on the individual circumstances of the case. However, it is usually less time than is ordered in favour of a parent.
An application for parental responsibility for the children may also be made by a grandparent or other person. These applications are usually made where both parents are unwilling, unable or lack the capacity to be legally responsible for the children (for example, as a result of addiction problems or family violence).
The court will carefully consider the background of each individual case, examining the involvement a person has had in the child’s life and whether a continuing relationship between the child and the person involved would be in the best interests of the child. The benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of his or her parents, and the child’s right to be protected from harm or exposure to abuse, neglect or family violence are the foremost considerations for the court.
The law also recognises that children have important relationships with people other than their parents, and these relationships are still considered by the court when a parenting decision is made. A non-parent application can even be made in circumstances where the child’s parents are not separated. These situations are more unusual, and generally arise either:
- When there is significant concern for the welfare of the children due to risk factors such as abuse, addiction or violence; or
- When there has been a breakdown in the relationship between the parents and the other adult, and the other adult believe is it is in the children’s best interests to maintain a relationship despite the objection of the parents.
Grandparents must meet with family consultant
When a non-parent makes a parenting application, there is also a requirement that everyone involved in the proceedings meet with a court-appointed family consultant to discuss the proposals. The family consultant then reports back to the court about those discussions.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.