Grandparents and Other Relatives
The Family Law Act specifically recognises the importance of people significant to the care of children (at section 60B) and grandparents get a direct mention in the legislation in this regard. Often, despite the breakdown of a marriage or relationship, a parent maintains a good relationship with their in-laws, which then enables the children to maintain their important relationships with members of their extended families.
However in other cases, the breakdown of a marriage or relationship results in the some degree of hostility between a parent and their in-laws. In those circumstances, the grandparents and other relatives may need to consider alternatives in order to maintain their relationship with the children. Any person who is significant to the children’s lives potentially has the right to make an application to the court, but usually only after they have attempted mediation with the other relevant people.
However, whether it is appropriate for grandparents or other relatives to make such an application will depend on the circumstances. If the grandparents or relatives enjoy a good relationship with the parent to whom they are related, and if that parent has regular time with the children, then it is likely the grandparents and relatives can continue their relationships with the children when the children are in that parent’s care. However some of the circumstances where it may be appropriate for the grandparents or relatives to consider making their own application are:
- Where they are estranged from the parent to whom they are related.
- Where the parent to whom they are related only has very limited or restricted time with the children.
- Where the grandparents or relatives live a significant distance from the parent to whom they are related, and it is not practicable for that parent to travel on occasion to them when s/he has the children in his or her care.
The law does not limit who is considered significant to the children’s care, welfare and development. It can include step-parents who separate from the children’s parent, and even a person who is not related to the children but who has been involved with them to a significant degree.