WHEN a couple seperate or get divorced, there’s often a messy tussle over who gets the kids, but where does that leave grandparents? In this month’s Seniors feature, Catherine Leach from Perth’s Leach Legal explains what access rights grandparents have to their grandkids after a break-up.
CHILDREN have a right to spend time on a regular basis with, and communicate on a regular basis with, both their parents and other people significant to their care, welfare and development (such as grandparents and relatives).
However, grandparents do not have an automatic right to see their grandchild if the parents decide that it isn’t in the child’s best interest.
Therefore, grandparents have to apply to the court to spend time with their grandchild.
Then, a decision is made based on what the court considers is in the child’s best interests.
Grandparents can start these Family Law proceedings at any time; it doesn’t have to be after a legal separation or divorce.
However, including grandparents in the organisation of parenting arrangements during divorce proceedings may be useful.
In doing so, everyone is aware of their rights to see the child once the divorce is finalised, and no further interaction with the court is needed.
The grandparents of a child may be either biological or non-biological.
Custody If the children’s parents are unable to provide adequate care, it may be necessary for grandparents to apply for the children to live with them.
The court may order that the children live with the grandparents full time or they have shared care with the parents, depending on the child’s needs.
The court will make all parenting decisions based on the best interests of the child.
Grandparent parental responsibility
If the grandparent receives parental responsibility, it means that the grandparents can make long term decisions for their grandchild without consulting the parents.
This may include decisions regarding elective medical care, changing the child’s name or moving countries.
Grandparent parental responsibility may be given if the children live with the grandparents full time and the parents are not involved with the children.
The parents and grandparents can formalise parenting agreements by apply to the court to have it formalised.
This is an especially beneficial step if the child has been living with the grandparents for an extended period.
The court will formalise the agreement by making parenting orders by consent.
Raising their grandchildren
Australia has some excellent programs that assist grandparents who are the primary caregivers for their grandchildren.
Grandparents can apply to Centrelink for financial aid, including the Grandparent Child Care Benefit, the Family Tax Benefit or Child Support.
If you are a grandparent raising your grandchildren and need some support, please see the Services Australia website to learn about your area’s community support services.