Grandparents Applying for Parenting Orders
Usually, parenting orders are made between the two parents of a child. However, there may be other people who wish to apply for an order about children.
The law allows non-parents to apply for parenting orders. A non-parent needs to be either a grandparent of the child, any other person concerned with the “care, welfare or development” of the child, or interestingly, the child 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 or even close family friends.
The two most common types of applications are:
- An application to spend time and communicate with the children. 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.
- Applications to obtain parental responsibility for the children and orders for the children to live with a grandparent or other person. These applications are usually made where both parents are unwilling, unable or lack the capacity to care 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.
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.
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.
These matters are difficult, complex and require a sensitive and thoughtful approach.
WHERE TO NEXT?
Taking the next step and contacting a family lawyer can be scary. Our lawyers will make you feel comfortable so you can talk about your situation. But first, ask yourself, Do I really need a lawyer?