The issue of grandparent access arises when custodial parents refuse to allow grandparent access to a child. This can happen when parties become estranged after a divorce, or where one parent is the sole guardian of the children. It can also arise if grandparents are estranged from their own children or after the death of one of the parents.

The Family Law Act [SBC 2011] CHAPTER 25 provides that grandparents may have the right to have parenting time with their grandchildren at section 59(2):

“A court may grant contact to any person who is not a guardian, including, without limiting the meaning of “person” in any other provision of this Act or a regulation made under it, to a parent or grandparent.”

A grandparent’s right to parenting time is always secondary to what is in the best interests of the child. A court will consider the past relationship the child has had with the grandparents and any pre-existing bond. The court will also consider whether the parenting time will be harmful to the child because of the dysfunctional relationship between the grandparents and the child’s parents.

Any parenting time granted to the grandparents will be significantly less than parenting time granted to a parent. It may include occasional visits and/or telephone or facetime access.

By far the best way to resolve these disputes is to keep them out of the court system as the inevitable stress caused to the parties and to the child will be extremely damaging to the child. Mediation may be a possible way to resolve the dispute and should be considered before proceeding with a court application.

Deborah Todd Family Law Victoria
Deborah A. Todd