Do Grandparents’ Rights Exist in Australian Law in 2024?

Grandparent Rights Australia 2024

Top Tips For Grandparents Seeking Time With Their Grandchildren

After a divorce or separation, or in some instances of family conflict, we are often asked what rights grandparents have to see their grandchildren. Unfortunately, no specific enforceable law in Australia gives grandparents the right to see their grandchildren. 

This also applies to other close family members, such as uncles and aunties. This can be distressing if you have enjoyed a close relationship with your grandchildren in the past and are having issues with maintaining contact due to family conflict, relocation or a relationship breakdown.

Why Would A Grandparent Be Denied Access To Their Grandchildren?

There are multiple reasons that a grandparent who has a meaningful relationship with their grandchild may be denied the ability to visit them after a healthy relationship has been established.

If the person with the majority of care for the children is an ex-partner of the parent of the children, they may wish to cut off ties out of emotion, personal conflicts or due to relocation.

If grandparents are the parents of the person with primary care of the children, the person with care may no longer wish to engage with them if there have been any personal disagreements or conflicts that would make it difficult for them to communicate.

Grandparent & Child

Best Interests Of Children & Meaningful Relationships

In Australia, the court does recognise that it is in the best interests of a child to have contact with people close to them, including both parents, grandparents and extended family even after separation, divorce or relocation occurs.  

Grandchildren’s time with grandparents can be negotiated through legal processes such as mediation or ordered through the family court system if needed.   

Why Parents May Deny Grandchildren’s time with Grandparents

All families experience some degree of conflict at times, but it’s generally not severe enough to completely cut ties, unless there is a history of abuse, poor behaviour or other issues that impact relationships significantly. 

After a divorce or breakup, a parent may choose not to see the other person’s family for personal reasons, or if they feel it would add to conflict. Likewise, issues of family violence may influence someone’s decision to stop seeing a former partner’s family. 

Some of the most common reasons for removing grandchildren’s time with grandparents are:

  • Previous family abuse issues
  • Family conflict or family breakdown
  • Disagreements on core values, religious views or parenting styles
  • When a parent feels that visits with grandparents have a negative impact on the child
  • Distance or relocation
  • Time involved with visits if a parent already has a lot on their plate
  • Interfering with a parent’s guidelines or undermining their house rules which may create challenging behaviour on return (things like giving them foods that are generally avoided, or letting them play unsupervised) 
  • Concerns over a grandparent’s health (memory issues, physical health issues, strong medications being taken, having diminishing sight but wanting to drive the children places)

Often the issues are surmountable if there are no safety concerns, and both parties are willing to work together. There may be changes required for this to happen, that ensures the children’s needs and safety are prioritised, some of which we’ll look at below. 

What Can I Do To Address The Issue Of Not Seeing My Grandchildren?

. If you are having severe conflict or differences with the parent (or parents) who have care of your grandchildren, there are some avenues you can take.

It’s likely that you’ve already attempted to verbally negotiate this with the person who has the care of the children, which may be your own child, or may be the ex-partner of your son or daughter.

  1. If possible, make time to discuss the issues at hand, and listen to any feedback or reasons you may be given.
  2. Be open to making some changes if necessary, for instance working together for a common bedtime, respecting food choices or any safety concerns.
  3. Come up with a plan of action that addresses any concerns, and suggest an upcoming time to trial these out.
  4. Be prepared to work on the parent’s terms and put aside as many differences as possible throughout the process.

If these steps do not work, or the parent refuses to discuss the situation, you may wish to look at a more structured process such as family law mediation or family counselling. If health or safety issues exist, supervised visits can be another avenue to explore. This does not necessarily need to be done with a formal supervisor – it may be possible for grandparents and children to meet in a park on a regular basis, while the parent has a coffee or catches up on some work at a nearby table for a few hours.

Whatever the case may be, having some clear written guideline agreed upon can make the whole process easier. 

Grandparents using Technology

In The Meantime, What Are My Other Options?

If you are still unable to spend time with your grandchildren, despite having attempted through the pathways above, you may need to accept the situation as it is, and try communicating your wishes again, later on.

During this time, you could look at a regular phone or video call if possible, write letters and send appropriate gifts on birthdays or holidays. If there are any larger family gatherings, school or sporting events, this can also be a good chance to connect with your grandchildren in a neutral setting. 

Most importantly, be open to working with the parent/s of your grandchildren where reasonably possible. Find ways to work together to maintain your bond, even if it requires patience and creativity.   

You may also need to consider applying to the Court for a Court Order to spend time with your grandchildren.  These can be difficult applications and you should seek independent legal advice prior to applying to the Court. 

If you’d like to discuss your matter further – or book Family Mediation or Family Dispute Resolution, please contact our team.

This is general information only. Please contact us for expert legal advice that considers your unique personal situation before making any decisions based on this article.

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Judy Stewart

Judy Stewart

Accredited Family Law Specialist