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The well-being of a child can be as important to a grandparent as it is to a mother or father. Although most cases dealing with access and decision-making responsibility (formerly custody) are brought by parents, a grandparent may also seek a parenting order. While Canadian law does acknowledge a grandparent’s right to request access to a grandchild, final decisions will vary on a case-by-case basis. We asked family law lawyer Negin Sari from Gelman & Associates for more information about grandparents and their role in decision-making responsibility over grandchildren.

What Rights Do Grandparents Have in Access and Contact With a Grandchild?

Although there is no automatic right of access, according to the Children’s Law Reform Act, grandparents have the right to apply in court for a contact order with their grandchild. A judge will use a test based on the best interests of the child to determine whether access (parenting time) should be granted to a grandparent.

This test will consider a child’s overall emotional, psychological, and physical well-being in the presence of their parents, grandparents, or other related individuals. It may also take into account the child’s preexisting relationship with the grandparents.

Do Grandparents Have Any Rights in Parenting Plans and Decision-Making Responsibility (Custody)?

The Children’s Law Reform Act also states that a grandparent can apply to the court for a parenting order respecting decision-making responsibility (custody) over a child. Applications by grandparents for decision-making responsibility are generally considered when both of a child’s parents are unwilling or unable to provide full-time care.

Courts and judges will consider a wide variety of factors in determining what the best interests of the child are. Under Section 24(3) of the Children’s Law Reform Act, these factors may include:

  • The child’s day-to-day needs
  • The child’s age and stage of development
  • The nature and strength of the child’s relationship with their parents and grandparents
  • Each parent’s willingness to support the child’s relationships with other parents, grandparents, or relevant figures
  • The history of the child’s primary caregiver and whether there have been changes
  • And more

If the court determines that the involvement of a grandparent in decision-making responsibility is in the best interests of the child, the request may be authorized. If you require legal assistance about how to apply for decision-making responsibility or your grandchild’s best interests, schedule a consultation with our family law lawyers at Gelman & Associates today.

Can a Parent Deny a Grandparent Visitation?

 A parent can deny a grandparent visitation with a child so long as the parent can prove they are acting in the child’s best interests. If a grandparent has been withheld from visitation by a parent, they have the right to apply for a contact order or decision-making responsibility. In Ontario, applications by grandparents for contact orders have been denied when such contact is deemed adverse to the child’s best interests. Whether a contact or parenting order is granted will be subject to the opinion of a court or judge.

Do the Best Interests of the Child Include Relationships With Grandparents?

The Children’s Law Reform Act specifically states that the nature and strength of a child’s relationship with their grandparents plays a role in a child’s best interests. Courts in Ontario have also previously expressed that maintaining positive relationships with extended family members can be beneficial to children. If it is found in court that the maintenance of a child’s relationship with their grandparents is in their best interests, contact orders or decision-making responsibility applications may be approved.

Schedule a Consultation for More Information about Grandparent’s Rights

The connection between a grandparent and their grandchild can be extremely valuable. Although grandparents are not automatically guaranteed access to their grandchildren, there are legal steps a grandparent can take to preserve the relationship. When pursuing a contact order or decision-making responsibility as a grandparent, professional legal advice can be beneficial. Our family law lawyers at Gelman & Associates can help file court applications and provide guidance about how a child’s best interests may be affected. Schedule a consultation for legal assistance on grandparents’ access in family law matters.

Disclaimer: For specific legal advice on your family law matter, please consult with a family law lawyer. The content in this article is not intended to act as legal advice and is instead intended to act as a general overview of a legal topic.

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