Separation and divorce don’t just impact the immediate family. When parties separate if there are children of the relationship this can have an impact on how those children relate to the grandparents. It is not unusual that a grandparent’s relationship with the children can either increase or in fact, reduce depending on which side of the separation you are on and who has the predominant care of the children.
The Family Law Act talks about a person who has a substantial impact in a child’s life and the rights/obligations of that person to continue that relationship if it is in the child/children’s best interests.
Sometimes it is important to get early legal advice as a grandparent as to where you fit with respect to the grandchildren when the parents of those children have separated.
What is the effect of a divorce on the rights of grandparents regarding the grandchildren
The formal obtaining of a divorce does not of itself impact on the comments above. It is a legal process ending the marriage but it does not end your interest in providing support to the grandchildren where you have been a substantial part of their lives.
However in a practical sense the question of how grandparents spend time with the grandchildren is often secondary to how the parents spend time with them and how all the pieces of the jigsaw can fit together.
What if my son or daughter doesn’t spend time with the children or has passed away
There are a number of circumstances that arise where a parent of the children does not spend time with them due to either personal circumstances or living in a location where it is not feasible to regularly do so. As a grandparent it is possible for separate arrangements to be made for you to spend time with the grandchildren outside of your child’s position. This even includes where your child as the parent has passed away and you are providing a positive impact to the children’s lives as surviving grandparents.
Whilst the unfortunate passing of a parent has the same impact as a divorce in ending the marriage it does not alter the position under the Family Law Act as to the ability of a grandparent to spend time with the children based on the reasonable needs of those children.
As a final point there are two important matters to be aware of :
- Firstly – that as a grandparent you have rights independent of the parents of the children to have a positive impact on the lives of your grandchildren.
- If you are unsure as to how those rights can be exercised then you should obtain legal advice. Your legal advisor will advise you that the divorce process itself will not impact on those rights.