Grandparents and family law

The following article is content from our partner, Caxton Legal Centre. Are you no longer in contact with your grandchildren because of a relationship breakdown with your adult son or daughter? Find out what your options are.

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Key Points

  • Any legal decision will depend on what's in the child’s best interests
  • Grandparents may obtain free legal advice in their local community
  • Children have a right to have a relationship with their grandparents

The law recognises that children have a right to maintain a meaningful relationship with their grandparents. Any legal decision related to children’s relationships with grandparents will be considered through the lens of what is in the child’s best interests. 

Caxton Legal Centre's Family, Domestic Violence and Elder Law Practice Director Colette Bots said many grandparents do not know what legal assistance is available to them.

"Grandparents may have the option — in the event that they're unable to afford legal advice from a private solicitor — to get free advice from community legal centres and from Legal Aid in their state."

Where you can find help

Community legal centres around the country can be found through the Community Legal Centres Australia website. A list of each state’s Legal Aid service is available through the National Legal Aid website. 

"Grandparents can make an application for a mediation and if a mediation fails, they then will have the right to make an application to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia to get parenting orders, if that is what they’re seeking,” said Ms Bots.  

"The purpose of mediation is to reach a parenting agreement in which it can be detailed what time children can spend with their grandparents on a regular basis."

She said it was not uncommon for the parent who opposed contact to be the former son-in-law or daughter-in-law. 

"Often those grandparents have tried everything they can before seeking legal advice," Ms Bots said.

"There's not [a legal] 'as of right' for the grandparents to have the grandchildren live with them, but the law clearly recognises that the children do have a right to have a relationship with them, which would include visiting them on a regular basis." 

What the Family Law Act says

The Family Law Act focuses on the importance of both parents playing an active role in the lives of their children after separation and on the need to ensure children are protected from harm (psychological or physical) above all else. The best interests of the child remain the paramount consideration throughout the Act. 

One principle of the law includes children’s right to spend time and communicate on a regular basis with both their parents and other people significant to their care, welfare and development (e.g. grandparents and other relatives), where it is not contrary to a child’s best interests.  

Further information about the Family Law Act is available at Caxton Legal Centre’s legal information website.