There are legislative provisions under the Family Law Act which gives legal standing to grandparents who wish to make an application in Court to spend time with their grandchildren.
Section 60B of the Family Law Act aims to ensure that children receive adequate and proper parenting to help them achieve their full potential and to ensure that parents fulfil their duties and meet their responsibilities concerning the care, welfare and development of their children.
The involvement of a grandparent in a child’s life can be considered to fall within this parental responsibility. This can include the responsibility to ensure children have a right of contact, on a regular basis, with “other people significant to their care, welfare and development.” The Family Law Act makes explicit reference to grandparents as persons who can fall within this category.
Grandparents are not invested with a special right or position over and above other people who might be significant to a child’s care, welfare and development. The only people in such a special category are parents. However, grandparents are included as an example of the class of people who may be able to establish that they are significant to a child’s care, welfare and development, and if that is the case and it is in the best interest of the child then the child has a right to see that grandparent.
The Family Law Act reflects the social recognition that sometimes grandparents are the sole stable feature in the lives of some children. The legislation therefore specifically empowers a grandparent to apply for a parenting order.
The Family Law Act also supports the generally regarded view in the Australian community that children should be entitled to have a relationship with their grandparents, provided it is in the child’s best interests. However, any determination of the best interests of a child should be informed by the family dynamics between the children’s parent/s and grandparent/s. In that regard, the views of the parents are significant but not necessarily determinative.
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