A separation can have a profound effect on the family. When parents separate, they will either, through agreement or through the courts, decide on when and how they will spend time with their children. But Grandparents with a close relationship with their grandchildren are often left out of such agreements or orders.
If you are being denied contact with your grandchildren, the first step is to try and reach an agreement with both parents as to when and how you will see the kids. If you can reach an agreement, either between yourselves or with the help of a lawyer, mediator or counselor, then that agreement can be filed with the court.
However, if an agreement can’t be reached with both parents, then the grandparent will need to pursue a court order that will allow them to see their grandchildren.
British Columbia’s Family Law Act allows any person to apply for ‘contact’ or time with a child. Obviously, however, the Courts are very cautious about allowing someone to have contact, especially against the parents’ wishes. You will need to show that it is in the best interests of the child for you to have court ordered contact. This can be difficult to do, and the onus will be on you to show why you should have guaranteed contact with your grandchildren.
In some situations, it may be necessary for you to take on more of a parenting role than simply having contact with your grandchildren. If you are looking to take on parental responsibilities, you will need to ask the court to become the child’s ‘Guardian’. Again, the Family Law Act allows anyone to apply for Guardianship, but the courts will be very stringent on who they decide to be a Guardian. They will always look to what’s in the best interests of the child and will look at factors such as the nature and length of your relationship with the child, your plans for how you are going to care for the child, and any history of violence in the family. Guardianship will give you broader rights to ‘parenting time’ then a contact order. You cannot become a Guardian by agreement, and must get an order from the court.
If you have questions about your rights as a grandparent in any family law case you can contact Drysdale Bacon McStravick LLP for the advice you need.