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What Are A Grandparent’s Rights To Access Their Grandchildren?

What Are a Grandparent’s Rights to Access Their Grandchildren?

The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren can be a very special bond. However, in Alberta, grandparents do not automatically have the legal right to access their grandchildren. Typically, this relationship is facilitated and fostered between parents and grandparents.

In many families, grandparents may also be relied on for childcare or may even live with the parents and grandchildren. However, in situations where there is a relationship breakdown, such as a divorce, a grandparent’s access to their grandchildren may be revoked or reduced significantly if the parents are no longer able to agree on parenting matters and facilitate the grandparent-grandchild relationship.

Applying for a Contact Order in Alberta

In Alberta, grandparents can apply for a Contact Order if they are being refused access to their grandchildren. A Contact Order is a legally enforceable document stipulating the terms and access between parties. However, it is important to note that Contact Order can only be obtained when it is in the child’s best interests.

This will involve but is not limited to:

  • The status quo (what has the relationship between the child and grandparent been in recent months/years);
  • The age of the child;
  • The proximity of the grandparent to the child’s primary residence; and
  • The relationship between the parent and the grandparent.

Prior to obtaining a Contact Order, a grandparent will need to seek the court’s permission to proceed and provide notice of their court application to the parents/guardians of the child. This is when the best interest of the child will be reviewed by the court.

It should be noted that in specific situations, grandparents do not need permission from the court to seek a Contact Order. A family law lawyer can assist in determining the court process that is best for your situation.

Alberta-Based Court of King’s Bench Decision Regarding Grandparent Access

DLL v CCL, 2021 ABQB 283 is a decision from April 2021 out of Edmonton, Alberta, where a Court of King’s Bench of Alberta Justice denied a grandparent’s request for permission to seek a Contact Order.

In this situation, the mother and child lived with the grandmother from when the child was born in September 2019 until July 2020, when the mother and child moved out of the grandmother’s home. The grandmother claimed that she had no contact with the child from November 21, 2020, until this matter was heard in the spring of 2021. The mother claims that when living together, she never trusted the grandmother around herself or the child, and this was the reason for them moving out of the shared home.

In this hearing, the Justice denied the grandmother’s request to seek a Contact Order as they could not find a significant relationship between the grandmother and child as defined in the Divorce Act, Canada. The Justice noted that the lack of significant relationship was not a comment on the grandmother’s efforts in this situation. Rather, the evidence and the position provided by the grandmother did not meet the specific requirements of the legislation to award her access.

The Justice also noted that the grandmother did appear to have much to offer the child and that there was the potential for a significant relationship to develop. However, it would be up to the mother, not the courts, to choose to allow this relationship to develop.

Disclaimer: The content provided in the blog posts of Jones Divorce & Family Law is general information and should not be considered legal advice. Please contact a lawyer for legal advice tailored to your specific situation. All articles are current as of their original publication date.