Family Law Blog

Understanding Your Legal Rights as a Grandparent in BC

Understanding Your Legal Rights as a Grandparent in BC

This is an updated version of our previous blog article, The Legal Rights of Grandparents in BC.

What rights do grandparents have in British Columbia? We often hear terms like “grandparents’ rights” or “rights of a grandparent”, so it may come as a surprise that grandparents actually do not have any default or automatic rights when it comes to their grandchildren. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a legal avenue a grandparent can pursue if they wish (but are unable) to spend time with their grandchildren!

What is Contact With a Grandchild?

Concerning grandchildren, grandparents (or other significant people in a child's life who are often, but not necessarily, relatives) tend to most often seek contact. Contact refers to a right to spend time with a child and does not include any decision-making authority. Contact can be in-person, or over audio or video calls. 

If the primary caregivers of your grandchildren voluntarily facilitate your spending time with your grandchildren, there is no need for an order for contact. But if they do not allow you to see your grandchildren voluntarily, you can make an application to court for contact. 

Factors Affecting Contact Applications

The success of your application depends on what the court decides is in the child's best interests. Similarly to disputes between parents about how much time each spends with their child, the court will consider many factors when processing an application for contact. These include the child's bonds with various individuals, historical relationships, emotional and physical well-being, education, and general needs and circumstances. 

An additional factor in these applications is the views and preferences of the parents or other primary caregivers; however, their views are no longer given as much weight as they were given in the past. More recently, courts have ruled that if a parent's preferences do not align with the child's best interests as demonstrated by the rest of the evidence, or if it's clear that the parent appears to be prioritizing their own feelings over the child's best interests, then those views cannot be the deciding factor in the outcome of the application and cannot trump the analysis of the child's best interests. 

A caveat here is that if a parent is so antagonistic to the grandparents (or vice-versa) that it is harmful to the child to be in the presence of interactions between these individuals, then that may weigh against the child's best interests when contact is being sought. 

Where grandparents have a good relationship with their grandchild and have shown themselves to be responsible and caring toward them in the past, contact will often be determined to be in the child's best interests, but there is no guarantee. 

Can Grandparents Apply For Guardianship of a Grandchild?

Though much less common, sometimes the circumstances are such that it is appropriate for a grandparent to make an application for guardianship of a grandchild. Guardianship typically comes with some decision-making and a greater role in a child's day-to-day caregiving.

Guardianship would not normally be granted to a grandparent unless a child has no suitable primary caregiver, or unless their caregiver becomes unable or unwilling to care for them. In times when a child has no suitable primary caregiver, grandparents (and other relatives) can be a great help in those situations if they are willing to seek guardianship. 

Find Out More

We are happy to assist clients with their questions on any aspect of Family Law in BC. Please contact us at the form below to get started.