One of the questions that is asked most often by grandparents is “What are our rights to our grandchildren?”. The most common answer by a family law lawyer is “It depends”.
Grandparents do not, as a whole, have rights when it comes to their grandchildren as it is a parental decision. However, in many circumstances the grandparents may have rights due to the relationship established with the grandchild(ren). Even parents do not necessarily have rights, as rights belong to the children.Circumstances where grandparents do have rights are if one of the parents is deceased or unable to exercise their access to the child. This is in order for the child to understand and establish a link with the father/mother who does not have access. This right stems from the child’s rights.
Best Interests of Child
Another is established when the child has a relationship/bond with a grandparent. In such cases, the Court would look at what is in the best interests of a child in order to establish a grandparent’s right. In particular, the Court will assess whether the lack of access to a grandparent may be detrimental to the child. Take, for example, the situation where the parents and grandparents see each other on a frequent basis. The “adults” have an argument and subsequently the parents deny access to the child(ren) to punish the grandparents. This situation can create a right depending on how old the children are, the frequency and duration of time spent together, etc. A court would likely not provide a right to someone who may only see their grandchild on short visits once in a while.
Grandparents in Parental Role
Grandparents who have taken on a parental role for their grandchild(ren) have the best case before a Court. This would be due to necessity, for example, where they have taken the child(ren) into their home and acted as a parent. It is important to note, however, that this situation can create other rights for the child(ren). For example, if a grandparent takes the role of parent (loco parentis), this can create a situation where child support can be sought against the grandparents. This can be used by the parent especially if the “adults” decide to act as children themselves.
My recommendation to grandparents is that they support their children and try to see the grandchildren as often as possible. Remember you do not need to parent the grandchild and as I have advised other grandparents, you can certainly “rent them for the day” and return them to your children when the grandchildren are on a sugar high.