Grandparents and Child Custody

Sadly, sometimes one or both biological parents are unfit, unable or unwilling to raise their own children due to capacity issues, financial and/or physical hardships, or else some other unique set of circumstances that prevent them from adequately and safely caring for their children. That’s when grandparents and child custody might make sense.

The Children’s Law Reform Act provides that any person may apply to the court for an order to custody and/or access to a child, and although the courts would favour either of the children’s biological parents for first choice of custody, grandparents occasionally step into the breach to seek legal custody of their grandchildren.

In order for grandparents (or anyone who is not a parent) to seek custody of a child, they must first file with the court the results of a recent police record check.

The Children’s Law Reform Act also requires that anyone who is not a parent must submit a request to every society (i.e. Children’s Aid Society and the like) for a report indicating whether the society has any records relating to the person applying for custody, and if there are any records, the report must indicate the date the file was opened and when the file was closed (if applicable).

Just because a grandparent expresses interest in obtaining custody of their grandchildren, does not automatically mean that custody will be granted. With the exception of Newfoundland, the other Canadian provinces only use the “blood relationship” as, but one factor in determining what is in the best interests of the child(ren).

In Ontario, the court must still be convinced that placing the child in the custody of grandparents would ensure their safety and well-being. The court will also assess the love, affection and emotional ties that may pre-exist between the grandparents and the children.

In addition, the grandparents would need to express to the courts what plans they have in place for raising the children. These must touch upon the home environment, how they will care for the children, what school(s) they would attend, what activities they may get involved with and how (if at all) the biological parents might be involved in their lives going forward.

Should the courts grant grandparents full custody, there most certainly is a mutually beneficial relationship that can flourish. Indeed, the children find themselves now in a home where they can expect some semblance of stability and where healthy role models are present, but grandparents also benefit in many ways. Among them:

♦ Often taking care of children can have an inspiring impact on grandparents; keeping them more active and filled with more vitality.
 Some grandparents may also view raising their grandchildren as a chance to correct all the “mistakes” they perceive they may have made raising their own children. They are more relaxed and can apply lessons they learned along the way.
 Some grandparents even find a greater purpose in their lives; one that provides them with both a challenge and excitement.

Still, assuming custody for your grandchildren is not a decision that anyone should enter into lightly. Along with the benefits for grandparents described above, this new dynamic can also come with certain challenges. Although not an exhaustive list, these include:

♦ An additional financial burden, particularly if they are retired and/or living on a fixed income.
♦ Grandparents may be more lax with discipline and find it hard to set limits. As a result, children may sense an opportunity to take advantage of their caregivers.
♦ Depending on the circumstances, age of the child and disposition, many emotional and/or behavioural problems may arise, either from the outset or as the child gets older.

At the end of the day, placing children in the custody of loving grandparents can provide a much needed lifeline, resulting in stronger familial bonds and lives that are ultimately enriched.

If you have questions about child custody, please call Gelman & Associates at (416) 736-0200 to set up your personal consultation.