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Grandparenting and family law: What you need to know?

Grandparenting and family law

Do you care for or raise your grandchildren? Are you concerned about your grandchildren’s safety? Are you prevented from spending time with your grandchildren? Issues such as these can cause great strain and stress so we are going to explain some simple steps you can take if these issues are impacting you and your family.  

The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) is federal legislation, meaning it applies to all States and Territories in Australia, and it covers arrangements regarding separation, divorce, property and financial settlement and parenting of children. Under the legislation, the principle of the best interests of the child is central to all decisions made about children and a key focus of the legislation is a child’s right to be cared for by both parents and other people who are significant to their care, welfare and development, including extended family members and grandparents. In fact, Grandparents are specifically recognised in the Act and their importance in grandchildren’s lives is acknowledged. Grandparents can therefore, make an application to the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court of Australia (FCFCOA) with regard to their grandchildren. It is important to note, however, that although grandparents can make an application to the FCFCOA, it will be subject to what is in the child’s best interests.

When deciding what is in a child’s best interest, the FCFCOA considers a number of factors including:

  • Protecting the child from harm including whether any domestic violence or abuse that may impact upon the child’s safety
  • The wishes and views of the child, depending on the child’s age and stage of development
  • The child’s relationship to their parents, grandparents and significant others
  • The impact any change to current living and spending time arrangements will have on the child
  • Practical implications of spending time and being in contact with a parent, grandparent or significant other
  • The attitude, circumstances, capacity and ability of the person making the application to provide for the child’s needs and uphold their best interests
  • If the child is of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background or of a culturally and linguistically diverse background, the child’s right to understand their culture

Are you being prevented from spending time with your grandchildren?

If you are being prevented from seeing your grandchildren options for seeking to spend time with your grandchildren include;

  1. Family Dispute Resolution

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is a process where parties’ in dispute meet with a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP) in a safe and contained forum to discuss issues causing conflict. FDRP’s are able to work with families in dispute to reach mediated parenting agreements that can be formalised into consent orders if the parties’ agree. FDR is cheaper and more emotionally supportive than entering a Court process.

To find more information about family dispute resolution services, go to Relationships Online; www.familyrelationships.gov.au or call 1800 050 321. You can also find more information about FDR and FDRP’s by going to; www.ag.gov.au/fdrproviders

     2. Legal Advice From a Family Lawyer

It is always wise to speak with a family lawyer about your situation and your legal options. Seeking legal advice does not automatically mean you are starting a litigious process. Legal advice can sometimes simply help you understand your legal rights and options for pathways forward.

If you would like to book a free 20 minute consultation, contact us.

Are you a Kinship or Grandparent Carer?

Sometimes children cannot live with their parents and live with a grandparent, extended family member or friend who becomes their primary carer, also known as their grandparent carer or kinship carer. Children live with grandparent and kinship carers for different reasons and for different amounts of time, depending on the circumstances. If you are a Grandparent or Kinship Carer, you can still apply for parenting orders as a person who is concerned for the care, welfare and development of the child. For more information, seek legal advice or to go www.fcfcoa.gov.au.

Financial Support for Grandparents?

Grandparents may be eligible for financial support to assist with the cost of caring for a grandchild. A grandparent can claim Medicare benefits for medical expenses for a grandchild in their care. Other government benefits and support may also be eligible to be paid. Finally,  it may be possible for a grandparent to claim child support from the child’s parent. Enquiries about financial support can be made with the Commonwealth Department of Human Services

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