Grandparents Rights Under Family Law Act

Do grandparents have special rights under the Family Law Act?  They do have some priority and are specifically mentioned in the Family Law Act.

We recently acted for grandparents wanting to spend time with their grandchild but who were having difficulties in doing so because of the conflict caused by the breakdown of the relationship between the child’s parents.  In that case our client grandparents had an established relationship with their grandchild prior to the difficulties arising and it was clear that the grandparents were important people in the child’s life.  Ultimately, there was a happy result for the grandparents and the child as we were able to successfully obtain court orders for the grandparents to spend regular time with their grandchild.

In amendments made in 2006 the Family Law Act 1975 recognised the importance of the role that grandparents often play in a grandchild’s life and the right of a grandchild to spend time on a regular basis with grandparents who are significant to their care, welfare and development.  These principles are set out in s.60B(2) of the Family Law Act 1975 and unless it would be contrary to a child’s best interests, a child has the right to regularly spend time and communicate with “other persons significant to their care, welfare and development such as grandparents and other relatives…”.

However, the Court does not always make court orders for grandparents to spend time with grandchildren.  In one reported case the Court refused to make a court order for a paternal grandmother to spend time with a grandchild in circumstances where both of the child’s parents had refused the grandparent to do so.  In that case the Court needed to consider if it was contrary to a child’s best interests if the grandchild was required by court order to spend time with the grandparent in circumstances when both parents had exercised their parental responsibilities in deciding that the child would not spend time with the grandparent.  The Court considered that because the grandchild was of a very young age and did not have any prior relationship with the grandparent and both the child’s parents had made the decision in exercising their parental responsibility for the upbringing of the child by the child not spending time with the grandparent to commence a relationship, that the Court should not interfere with the child’s parents exercising their responsibility as parents of the child.