A fresh perspective on divorce, spousal support, child support, parenting after separation and everything family law

Family Law: access for grandparents

Are grandparents able to get court orders for access to their grandchildren?

The answer is yes.  In British Columbia, third parties (for example grandparents) can get court ordered access to children.

Section 35 of the Family Relations Act provides that grandparents of a child  may apply to the court to exercise custody over a child or have access to a child.

Seciton 16 of the Divorce Act provides that the court can make an order recpecting custody or access if an application is made by a spouse, or any other person.

The new Family Law Act provides in Section 59 that the court may grant contact to any person who is not a guardian, including grandparents.

The British Columbia courts have set out some considerations  in case law, for example Chapman v. Chapman to guide an analysis of what is in a child’s best interest when assessing third party access claims:

  • The court should be reluctant to interfere with the custodial parent’s decision on access and should do so only if it is satisfied that it is in the child’s best interest to do so;
  • It is not in the child’s best interest to be exposed to a real conflict between a custodial parent and a third party (however the court should be aware of cases where parents may be arguing there is a conflict or potential conflict to beat an access application that has merit).

It is the onus of the party seeking access to a child to show that the access they are proposing is in the best interest of the child.  A court may also consider what the child thinks about access if they are old enough.

(Meet the Fockers – different grandparents = different parenting styles ~ NOTE: safe for work)

If you are a grandparent seeking acecss to your grandchild, there are some useful resources online that you can consult for free, including:

Interestingly, the summary of case law by the Department of Justice looks at how the courts have treated access claims by grandparents differently in circumstances where the families are “intact” and “not intact”.  The Department of Justice articles summarizes their review:

The case law above seems to suggest that the courts may use their jurisdiction to maintain existing relationships between grandparents and grandchildren when the acrimony between the parents and grandparents is not so strong as to place the children in an untenable position.  However, the courts are unlikely to create or establish relationships when none previously existed, against the wishes of a parent.

Family Law Act: March 18, 2013

I am looking forward to lots of things in 2013…for example:

The Family Law Act is coming into force on March 18, 2012 – it has just been announced.  The new legislation will substantially change family law in British Columbia and it will replace the Family Relations Act.

Welcome 2012: changes to the child support tables

2012 is here and there are already changes you should know about in regard to calculating child support.

The Federal Child Support Guidelines have been amended as of December 31, 2011 for ongoing child support.  A summary of the changes and a useful question and answer can be found online.

The new tables can also be found on the Government of Canada’s website as well as a child support calculator.  In revisiting child support obligations and amounts it is also important to gather and exchange your 2011 income information as required by any agreemetns or court orders you have in place.

Hello Family Law Act, Goodbye Family Relations Act: upcoming in 2012 and 2013

In the next (approximately) 12-18 months the new Family Law Act will come into force, replacing the Family Relations Act…The Family Law Act was passed in British  Columbia’s legislature on November 23, 2011 and it received Royal Assent on November 24, 2011.  There were some changes that came into effect on November 24, 2011 including the repeal of the obligation to support parents (Section 90 of the Family Relations Act), the repeal of provisions regarding property agreements (section 120.1) and changes to a number of BC acts to use the gender neutral terms when discussing spouses.

The provision regarding parental support was in the news last year when a BC woman sued her adult children for support.