In 2014 a Brisbane Federal Circuit Judge (sitting in Toowoomba) decided to summarily dismiss an application by a grandmother to spend time with her grandchildren.
The circumstances where both the children’s parents strenuously opposed the grandmother spending any time with the children. In other words the Judge decided to end the application without allowing it to proceed to a final hearing.
The particular facts of the case lead to the decision but the Judge’s reasoning was partly that:
“When I weigh up: the fact that the children do not have a relationship with their grandmother; the extent of the parents’ opposition to starting such a relationship; their joint exercise of parental responsibility in not wanting the children to have that relationship; and the potential for ongoing conflict; with: the potential benefit to the children of developing a relationship with the grandmother and extended paternal family; and the benefit to them of having a fuller understanding of their identity, I am satisfied that the former significantly outweighs the latter. For these reasons I am not satisfied the grandmother has any reasonable prospect of successfully prosecuting her application and I would summarily dismiss her application.”
BEST INTERESTS OF CHILDREN IS PARAMOUNT CONSIDERATION UNDER FAMILY LAW ACT
Whilst the above case demonstrates an occasion where a court has determined the relationship with the grandparent was not in the childrens best interests for the reason set out above Grandparents are specifically mentioned in the Family Law Act as being a category of persons who may make application to the Court in relation to arrangements for their grandchildren. Grandparents of course ususally don’t achieve the same sort of outcomes a parent would achieve but mediations and court outcomes often provide grandparents with some form of contact with their grandchildren where that contact has been refused by a parent or parents.
Situations can often arise where grandparents are shut out of their granchildren’s lives because the parents separate or sometimes when the relationship between the grandparent and parent/s have deteriorated. There is ample evidence to suggest that children should be engaged with their wider family including grandparents and that this involvement is better for their long term development. As the above case demonstrates the individual circumstances of each case are examined by the court with the focus being on the best interests of the children being the paramount consideration. Not everyone “wins” in court proceedings but if proceedings are necessary then getting the best advice and presenting the Court with the best evidence are crucial to a good outcome.
Grandparents are far more likely to obtain an agreed outcome through mediation but of course if that fails there remains the option of Court processes. Contact us to find out how mediation can help and how we can advise and help you if court proceedings are the only remaining avenue.