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The rights of grandparents in modern families

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If you’re a busy working parent, chances are you’ve called upon your own parents to take care of the kids for the afternoon if the work rosters didn’t align, or help out with the occasional after school pick up.

As our lives get busier, and the costs and difficulties of finding adequate childcare increase, it often falls to grandparents as the major providers of informal childcare for young children.

But in many cases, grandparents are also becoming full-time carers, particularly in circumstances where parents are unable to care for their own children.

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It was once the case that grandparents were there to help during sickness, disability or the death of parents, but unfortunately we’re seeing them taking on more of a parenting role as a result of alcohol and drug addiction affecting their own children.

Whether it’s a modern family or circumstances where parents are unable to care for their children, grandparents are constantly asking where they stand in terms of the law.

Under the Family Law Act in Australia, grandparents can make an application to the courts to have time with children and even step in to the full time carer role if parents can no longer look after their children.

In unfortunate circumstances such as the death of a parent, or a significant drug or alcohol addiction, grandparents can seek orders from the Family Court to have the parental responsibly and full time care of the child.

These conditions can also apply during divorce, when one or both parents may try to resist the access that their in-laws have to the children. In cases like this the grandparents can make an application to have time with the children and the courts will consider if this is in the best interest of the child.

When parents divorce, it’s important that they maintain a meaningful relationship with their children and partner. There’s also an acknowledgement that children have important attachments to grandparents and other extended family members too.

Children and grandparents often share a close bond, and the Family Court recognises this. Under the law, grandparents can make the same applications as the children’s parents, acknowledging their position as an important part of the family.


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