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Obtaining a family order to exercise grandparents’ rights

Divorce and other conflicts between British Columbia couples can disrupt several relationships within a family. Children must adapt to the parents' separation. Grandparents may lose contact with grandchildren when a parental dispute locks them out of regular visits.

Provincial family law and the Canadian Divorce Act allow grandparents to file formal petitions for court-ordered approval to see grandchildren. However, grandparents' rights to grandchild contact, as stipulated under provincial laws, or access, as outlined in the federal Divorce Act, is not guaranteed. A court must determine the continuance of a grandparent-grandchild relationship is good for the child.

Parents, known in legal terms as guardians, have a great deal of authority over who may interact with their children. Courts honor this bond while considering whether a grandparent's presence in child's life is beneficial. A parental decision to limit or ban contact between grandparents and grandchildren can influence a judge's ruling.

The bottom line in these cases is whether the interests of a child or children will be served when a grandparent relationship is resumed or sustained. The deciding factors are not what parents or grandparents desire, although these opinions are considered. If a case ends up in court, the grandparent is responsible for providing proof an ongoing relationship is for the child's welfare.

Rushing out to file a grandchild contact or access court order may not be necessary, if grandparents are willing to come to some sort of compromise with the parents. You may ask a court to make sure a grandparent access provision is included in the parents' divorce agreement.

Family justice counsellors and mediators also can help relatives forge agreements about the boundaries of grandparent and grandchild relationships. Keep in mind grandparent access is not structured in the same way as parental contact. You can discuss the restrictions of grandparent access, along with filing and resolution options, at length with an attorney.

Source: Family Law in British Columbia, "Children's right to time with grandparents," accessed May 15, 2015

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