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Contact with the Grandkids

October 11, 2010

Maryanne has asked me on this Blog “As a grand mother what rights have I to see my grand daughter?”.

The Care of Children Act 2004 (the piece of legislation that sets out the law about issues of contact and care arrangements for children) recognises the benefit to children of relationships with their grandparents and wider family members. The principles of the Act include an emphasis on:

• The continuity and stability of a child’s relationships with members of his or her family group (which would include grandparents);

• The preservation and strengthening of such relationships; and

• encouraging members of a child’s family group to participate in the child’s care, development and upbringing.

If a grandparent wants assistance from the Family Court to have contact with his or her grandchild, he or she will usually need to seek “leave” (or permission) of the Court to make an application for contact. To be granted leave, the Court will want to be sure that the application is motivated by a genuine interest in the child’s welfare and that there would be no prejudice to the child’s welfare in granting leave.

There are some situations where a grandparent has the right to make an application for contact without first asking for the Court’s leave to do so. Those situations are if your child (the parent of your grandchild) has died or has been refused contact by the Court or is making to no attempt to exercise contact.

Being granted leave doesn’t mean you will be granted contact – it just means you may bring an application for contact before the Court for its consideration. The Court will decide your application for contact based on the principles of the Act. The Court’s paramount consideration in deciding whether to grant contact will be whether the making of the order serves the child’s welfare and best interests. The Court is likely to be open to an application for contact where the grandparents can demonstrate they have, or have had, a positive relationship with their grandchild. Where a grandparent’s child (the parent of the grandchildren) has the care of the child or has regular contact with the child, the Court may take the approach that the appropriate course is for the child to see his or her grandparents during the time the child is in that parent’s care.

If an order is made granting contact between a grandparent and grandchild, it will usually state when the contact is to occur and the nature of the contact (eg face to face visits, phone calls, emails etc). It may also address any logistical issues such as transport and where changeovers in care are to happen. The order can be made subject to conditions. The order will set out the consequences if the order is breached.

Unless there are urgent safety considerations, the Court will usually refer the parties to a contact application to counselling and possibly mediation to try to help them reach understandings about contact. The Court is also likely to appoint a lawyer to represent the grandchild in order to ascertain the child’s views.

The circumstances that give rise to a grandparent seeking contact with their grandchild are varied and as such, different considerations will apply for the Court. The law is different where Child, Youth and Family Services are involved or where orders have been made for the child under the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act. It is important to get legal advice from a family lawyer about your particular situation to check what your prospects of success are and what options you have for resolving your contact issue.

If you want  help with a family law issue, go to www.familylawresults.co.nz.

From → Care of Children

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