Grandparents are the often-forgotten part of the equation when a married couple divorce. Sometimes, they lose access to their grandchildren, with many enjoying reduced visitation times as a result of the split. A question that’s often asked of us as family lawyers is – what legal rights to grandparents have to see their grandchildren following a divorce?
The Rights of the Child Must be Protected
Before the BC Family Law Act came into existence in 2013, grandparents had little to no rights regarding their grandchildren. Usually, parents would make arrangements to let their children stay in touch with the families of both parents. Unfortunately, sometimes the parents’ issues meant the grandparents were cut out of the equation altogether, leaving children and grandparents upset at this lack of a vital connection. Now, thanks to the BC Family Law Act, if having a relationship with grandparents is in the child’s best interests, this connection must be legally protected.
How a Grandparent Can Protect Their Rights
If, for whatever reason, a grandparent cannot reach an agreement with the parents to see their grandchild they can apply for a court order to back up their wish with the law. BC Family Law calls this time together “contact with a child” while the federal Divorce Act labels it “access.”
The court will weigh the best interests of the child before making their decision. Best interests is a broad umbrella that encompasses the child’s health and emotional wellbeing, what the child thinks or wants, the need for stability, prior relationship between grandparent and grandchild, and several other factors.
How to Apply for Contact with a Grandchild
At this juncture, it’s recommended to consult with a family law expert. They can advise you on the best course of action. Most individuals in this scenario will apply in BC Provincial Court under the Family Law Act.
Sometimes, in rarer cases, a grandparent will apply for guardianship of the child following a divorce. Again, it’s recommended to see advice on this issue as it only applies to a small number of cases.
Here to Help
Need advice with any aspect of the visitation process? At Westside, we’ve helped countless clients navigate this difficult time. Contact us and we’ll be happy to assist.