The Family Law Act in B.C. enshrines a grandparent’s right to access in 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.”
One of the leading cases is Chapman v. Chapman, a decision of Madam Justice Rosalie Abella of the Ontario Court of Appeal. This case states that grandparent access may be denied or limited where a parent is attentive to the child’s needs and best interests AND there is no evidence that the refusal to allow access is detrimental to the child the court should defer to the parent’s right to decide how often a child sees a grandparent.
In general the courts will allow grandparents access to a child when 1) one of the parents has died and the grandparents were the parents of that party, 2) there is an established, existing relationship between the grandparents and the child and that is at risk of being interrupted, and 3) the grandparents provide consistency for the child that the parents cannot deliver.
Courts tend to deny grandparents access when 1) the grandparents are seeking to usurp the parent’s role, 2) the grandparents engage in misconduct, or 3) granting access to the grandparent risks either destabilizing the parent-child family unit or putting the child in the middle of the conflict and hostility that exists between parent and grandparent.
Deborah A. Todd