With higher divorce rates, more single parents, and parents working longer hours, grandparents are playing a bigger role than ever before in raising and caring for their grandchildren. However, when relationships between grandparents and parents break down, this leads to complex legal issues around grandparents’ rights to have contact with or participate in the lives of their grandchildren. This is why the role of family lawyers is so important when it comes to advocating for grandparents’ rights.
The legal standing of grandparents differs across jurisdictions, but there are some principles. The law recognizes that it is beneficial for children to have an ongoing relationship with grandparents as long as this is consistent with their best interests. Parents have constitutionally protected rights to make decisions about their children’s care and upbringing without undue interference. Courts must balance these competing rights and interests when considering grandparents’ rights cases.
A court considers the relationship between the grandparent and grandchild, the reasons for limiting access, and the potential benefits to the child of having contact with the grandparent. If granting access rights would undermine the parent-child relationship or conflict with the child’s welfare, courts are unlikely to override the parents’ objections.
Role of family lawyers
Specialist Sydney family lawyers play a key role in assisting grandparents to understand and pursue their legal options.
- Advise grandparents on the laws relating to grandparents’ rights in their jurisdiction and whether they may have grounds to seek court orders. This includes assessing the strength of any existing relationship with the grandchild.
- Help grandparents build their case by gathering supporting evidence like school reports, medical records, and statements from witnesses demonstrating involvement in the child’s life.
- Negotiate with the parents to try to reach an agreement on grandparents’ access rights without going to court. Many disputes can be settled through mediation if parents understand the legal alternatives.
- Represent grandparents in court and advocate for custody, visitation, or phone/video contact orders if an agreement cannot be reached. Lawyers argue the grandparents’ case while respecting the court’s role.
- Guide grandparents through enforcing any orders made to ensure they secure meaningful access as intended. Legal advice may also be needed if orders require variation.
As well as legal support, a competent family lawyer will understand and empathize with the emotional turmoil faced by grandparents who are denied contact with grandchildren they love. By patiently listening to a grandparent’s story, explaining legal options, and professionally advocating their case, a lawyer helps grandparents through an incredibly challenging period with their dignity intact. Though complex, family law provides mechanisms for grandparents to formalize access rights when relationships break down with parents. With an experienced lawyer’s counsel, grandparents have the best chance of preserving meaningful bonds that allow both them and their grandchildren to flourish.