What are grandparent rights when it comes to child custody?
In Alberta, Canada – the laws consider parents as primary guardians of their children and in some cases, one or both parents can limit and deny access to grandparents when it comes to their children. Luckily, grandparents can be given some custody and access under specific circumstances. When it comes to children’s rights – the courts always place their best interests as the main objective in any child custody or access disputes. They will take things into consideration such as their physical, emotional, psychological and financial wellbeing and review all available options. Sometimes grandparents may be able to provide better support and care than one or both children’s parents and in situations like this – the courts will consider giving grandparents access or custody rights.
If you are a grandparent in Alberta, concerned about the safety or well being of your grandchildren or a grandparent seeking options to stay in contact with your grandchildren – we strongly recommend you contact an Edmonton divorce lawyer to see what your options may be.
Contact Orders from Alberta Family Courts
Alberta’s Family Law Act has provisions for grandparents to make an application to the court for a contact order when the child’s legal guardian does not agree for you to have contact with their children. A court may consider a contact order, when three simultaneous conditions are met which include:
- the parents are the guardian of the children; and
- the guardians are living separate and apart or one of the guardians has died; and
- the grandparents’ contact with the children is interrupted by this separation or death.
In the absence of any of the three conditions above, the court may require an extra step of where the grandparent obtains the court’s permission to make an application for a contact order before they can apply for that order. Each scenario is unique, and we recommend you speak with a family lawyer regarding your options if this pertains to you.
Taking Part in Kinship Caregivers Program
Kinship care is an Alberta government program allowing the children in the care of child services, to be cared for by extended family members approved for the role, such as grandparents. Kinship caregivers receive financial help like foster caregivers. Kingship caregivers assume the role of a parent taking care of the day-to-day needs of the child in addition to the following roles:
- may attend training to improve and develop their parenting skills or specific to the needs of the child under their care;
- work as part of a team together with the child, parents and extended family of the child, children’s aid caseworkers, the child’s support network and professionals;
- help and support contact between the child and their own family; and
- attend children services planning meeting about ongoing arrangements for the child.
Court Application by Grandparents Seeking A Guardianship Order
Grandparents can apply for the courts permission to care for or to have guardianship of their grandchildren under Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act. This Act applies when the children:
- are already under the care of Children’s Services;
- are subject to a temporary guardianship order; or
- are subject to a permanent guardianship agreement or order.
A judge will consider the grandparent’s suitability to be a guardian and their ability and will to exercise the powers, responsibilities and entitlements of a guardian. A judge may also ask for a report by a qualified professional stating that it is in the best interest of the child for the grandparent to be the guardian of the child.
Tips for Grandparents Going Through Custody Disputes
Here are some tips for grandparents who are currently watching their child go through a separation or divorce.
- If there is a separation or divorce, do not take sides or criticize the parents specially in front of the children
- If you suspect the relationship is moving in the wrong direction, seek assistance from a mediator or divorce lawyer
- If there is hostility between you and the parents of the grandchildren, keep a valid record of telephone calls, visits and details about what was said and done
- If you have a good relationship with the parents of your grandchildren, continue to build on that. If your relationship is tense, try your best to rebuild that relationship
- If you lose your contact with the grandchildren and there is no hope of reestablishing contact, you can decide to talk to an experienced family lawyer and explore your legal options
When there is a family dispute - there may be valid reasons for restricting grandparents to see their grandchildren. Going to courts can be avoided if you and the parents can agree on a mutually satisfactory contact schedule. This agreement can be submitted to the courts and filed as a consent order and we recommend you contact a family lawyer to help you with preparing and finalizing this enforceable contract. Please contact us for a consultation today by calling 587-410-2500 if you are a grandparent who is looking to increase access to your grandchildren following a separation/divorce.
*Please note the content of this blog offers a general overview and does not constitute legal advice as every case is unique from one another. We encourage you to seek legal advice from an Edmonton divorce lawyer for any answers related to grandparent rights in child custody and access disputes.