Can Grandparents Demand to See Their Grandchildren?
What happens when the relationship between yourself and your ex-spouse’s parents gets nasty? Can they legally DEMAND to see their grandchildren?
Let’s find out!
What happens when a severe family rift means that you want to cut off all contact with the Grandparents of your children? It happens every day.
Whether the in-laws just don’t take a liking to their child’s spouse, or they don’t agree with how the child is being raised. Some Grandparents are now fighting back and there is a growing trend of Grandparents that are demanding to have visitation rights to their grandchildren. But do they really have any rights over their Grandchildren?
The Grandparents Rights
The Family Law Act of 1975 says that children have a right to maintain regular communication with those who are considered important to their welfare, care and development. The Law also recognises that Grandparents are included in this category. However, just because the law recognises this, it still does not mean that Grandparents have AUTOMATIC rights to see their grandchildren.
Grandparents do not have an automatic right to have a relationship with their grandchild
What A Grandparent Can Do Legally
A Grandparent who wants access to their Grandchildren must make a petition for a Parenting Order with the Family Court if they want access or even potentially custody of their grandchildren. The Grandparents are more likely to be approved if the parents of the child are unwilling to care for the child or lacks the capacity to do so. If there is evidence of child abuse or neglect, the Law can award Grandparents full custody or shared custody with the parents. However the Court will only do this if it is in the best interests of the child.
Grandparents who are awarded full custody are entitled to the Family Tax Benefit, the Grandparent Child Care Benefit, Double Orphan Pension (if both parents are deceased) and child support (from the remaining parents).
However if none of these apply, it is very rare for the Court to go against the wishes of the parent who just doesn’t want them in their or their child’s life.
What a Grandparent Should Do Morally
Well it all boils down to relationships. If a Grandparent goes out of his or her way to be malicious to the child’s mother, they then can’t expect that Mother to welcome them with open arms when Grandchildren come into the picture.
Nor should Grandparents expect a Mother to allow her child to see people the mother consider ‘A threat’ to her child.
Instead, should both parties wish, they should try and mend those relationships to see if a possible relationship with their Grandchildren can be looked at.
- Always respect the wishes of the parents
- Obey any rules set out regarding the parenting of the Grandchildren (ie food choices, bed times etc)
- Never bad-mouth the child’s parents to the child.
- Call or message before turning up to see your Grandchild.
- Never argue in front of the kids.
- Always supervise visits if they feel uneasy about the relationship.
- Have an open conversation with the Grandparents away from the grandchildren to set the grounds rules.
- Support their spouses in their decisions.
- Never argue in front of the kids.
But it isn’t easy.
Real Life Reasons Why Parents Cut off Grandparents
“It’s very simple: If they want to see the kids, they have to treat the parents with respect. If they cannot do that, they can’t see the kids. Thus, they can’t see the kids.
If your child asks, depending on the age, you might tell them that grandma and grandpa can’t follow the rules, so they are in time-out. Or as they age, you can describe to them a bit more about the abuse and make it clear you made a decision to protect yourself and them.”
“We had to cut out my ex husbands mother completely. It took us many years to do so, maybe too many, but in the end we required supervised visitation only, and she had a hissy fit and refused.
For us, it started off with her getting our kids hair cut without permission. We discussed that this was not OK, and it kept happening to the point that we knew it was a control thing for her. (She’s fairly unbalanced and lost custody of her own kids when they were young.) We wanted our kids to have grandparents in their lives and kept giving her chances, even after she badmouthed both of us to our kids. Big mistake. The final blow came when she talked us into an overnight stay at her house. Our kids reported her husband was completely beat up from a fight outside a bar. He was supposedly sober and in recovery from being a blackout alcoholic and our youngest had nightmares about his disfigured face for months. Then she left them alone with this drunk for a few hours to have coffee with friends. As if that wasn’t enough, she allowed my oldest to go online to an unfamiliar internet chat room unsupervised until 2:00 am, telling her “What happens at grandma’s house stays at grandma’s house.” F**k. That. They haven’t seen her since.
For us, we decided that this woman was a threat to our children’s emotional and physical well being, and that trumps any and all guilt trips from her. I have never regretted it. You need to ensure your child’s emotional and physical safety first and foremost. Our decision isn’t right for everyone. You need to decide what’s right for your child.”
“I have some basic rules for family. No relationship with the parents, no relationship with the child. No child should grow up seeing their mother treated disrespectfully. It is reasonable to want to protect children from toxic people – even if they are family.
To put it another way, if the people treating you this way weren’t ‘family’ would you have them in your life or be debating whether or not they should have a relationship with your children?”