Following separation grandparents are often left to question where they stand regarding the care arrangements for their grandchildren. These issues can be resolved in a number of ways:
- Informal arrangements directly with the parents (in particular the parent who the child lives with);
- Mediation – arrangements reached at mediation;
- Negotiation – arrangements reached with the assistance of a solicitor;
- Application to Court – where no arrangement can be reached via other means.
Some families are able to reach informal agreements with grandparents to enable them to spend some time with the children while they are in the care of the related parent. However, sometimes negotiations break down and grandparents are not afforded regular contact with their grandchildren. Under the Family Law Act grandparents have what is called ‘standing’ to request time with grandchildren.
If you are a grandparent and you are concerned you won’t be able to spend time with your grandchild the first step is to approach the parents and attempt to negotiate an agreement.
If you find it difficult to communicate with the parent who the child lives with then you can engage a mediator to attempt to resolve the dispute. Mediation can be arranged in Mackay through either Relationships Australia or the Family Relationship Centre. At mediation you can negotiate a Parenting Plan with the parent who the child lives with. Ordinarily the parent who the child does not live with will also participate in the mediation. A Parenting Plan is an agreement in writing signed and dated between the parents providing for the care arrangements for the child which can include provisions to accommodate for time with a grandparent. A parenting plan is not enforceable but must be considered by the Court if an Application to the Court is made in the future.
For there to be a binding and enforceable arrangement regarding spending time with your grandchildren consent orders can be submitted to the Court to be sealed. If the Court is satisfied that the agreement is in the best interests of the child then the court agreement will be binding.
A court application may be required where both parents may not be able to take care of the children and the grandparents may feel the need.
When considering any parenting matter a Court’s main concern is the ‘best interests’ of a child. When considering whether it is in the ‘best interests’ of a child to spend time with grandparents a Court will consider the following factors:-
- The time the grandparents have spent with the child to date;
- The nature of the grandparents relationship with the child; and
- The practicalities of time being spent with the child.
We would encourage grandparents to seek legal advice when they become concerned about spending time with their grandchildren.
Please do not hesitate to contact our office on (07) 4963 2000 or via our online contact form should you have any queries.