Pursuant to section 65C(ba) of the Family Law Act 1975, a grandparent may apply to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia for parenting orders relating to a child/ren.
The court must always consider what orders are in the best interest of the child/ren when making orders with respect to a grandparent spending time/communicating with the child/ren. The court is generally reluctant to intervene in the parent’s care of the child/ren and to make orders providing for the child/ren to spend time with a grandparent unless there is compelling evidence to suggest that such orders would be in the best interests of the child/ren.
Some factors that the court will consider when determining an application for the child/ren to spend time with a grandparent include:
- The benefit to the child of maintaining/developing a meaningful relationship with the grandparent.
- The ability of the grandparent to provide for the child/ren’s emotional and intellectual needs and wellbeing.
- Any views expressed by the child/ren taking into consideration their age, maturity and understanding of the situation.
- The child/ren’s primary carer and the primary carer’s view of the grandparent spending time/communicating with the child/ren.
- The previous and current extent of the grandparent’s involvement in the child/ren’s life.
- Any recommendation made a by professional (eg. social worker, family report writer) for the child/ren to spend time/communicate with the grandparent.
- Whether the child/ren spending time/communicating with the grandparent increases the risk of the child/ren suffering from or being exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence.
- The effect of the child/ren’s relationship with their other siblings including half-siblings and step-siblings if an order is made for the child/ren to spend time/communicate with the grandparent.
- Whether it is in the child/ren’s best interest to maintain a connection to the maternal/paternal side of their family through their grandparents (eg. if there is an absence of a mother/father in the child/ren’s life).
- Any practical issues arising from the grandparent’s spending time/communicating with the child/ren.
If the circumstances of the matter are such that the child/ren are in immediate risk of harm in a parent’s care, the court may make an order that the child/ren live with their grandparent/s if such an order is sought by the grandparent/s.
While the law recognises the importance of a child spending time with a grandparent, it is strongly recommended that legal advice is sought before any application to court is made.