Arguments and disagreements are normal in any family, but it’s truly heartbreaking when a family rift impacts the special bond between grandparents and their grandkids. Whether it be because of an adult child’s marital breakdown or when domestic violence rears its ugly head; sadly it’s not uncommon for parents to deny access.
Unfortunately, grandparents don’t have an automatic right to see their grandkids, and after many failed attempts to resolve the situation it can become quite distressing if their wishes to see the little ones grow up are denied.
When it becomes all too much, many take the next step and seek legal advice, however, experts warn this should be done with extreme caution as jumping into legal proceedings can sometimes exacerbate family tensions.
According to CRH Law lawyer Brian Herd, in the majority of cases grandparents are seeking ways to benefit their grandchildren if they have been denied a personal relationship with them.
“One way of doing this of course is to change their wills to make special provision for their grandchildren,” he told Starts at 60. “This device is the grandparent’s most common form of trying to connect with their grandchildren – regrettably, not in the grandparents’ lives but in their deaths.”
For those who do wish to take more extreme legal action, there are options such as applying to the Family Court for an order granting them access, which is referred to as a parenting order. For those who’d rather avoid the courts completely, Herd suggested proposing the parties attend alternative dispute resolution and obtain a certificate from a registered family dispute resolution practitioner.
“If this process is successful the parties will construct a parenting plan, which is an arrangement that is devised and agreed to by the parties without external involvement,” he explained. “This agreement is an informal arrangement that has no legal enforceability.”
Sadly, sometimes this doesn’t have any effect. The parties will obtain a certificate of participation and the matter will be referred to court, if the parties choose. Only once this certificate is obtained will a court consider granting a parenting order to the grandparents.
It could be a long process, but in the end it’s often worth it for many grandparents and their beloved grandkids.