Can Grandparents Demand to See Their Grandchildren?
What happens when the relationship between yourself and your ex-spouse’s parents gets nasty? Can they legally DEMAND to see their grandchildren?
Let’s find out!
What happens when a severe family rift means that you want to cut off all contact with the Grandparents of your children? It happens every day.
Whether the in-laws just don’t take a liking to their child’s spouse, or they don’t agree with how the child is being raised. Some Grandparents are now fighting back and there is a growing trend of Grandparents that are demanding to have visitation rights to their grandchildren.
But do they really have any rights over their Grandchildren?
The Grandparents Rights
The Family Law Act of 1975 says that children have a right to maintain regular communication with those who are considered important to their welfare, care and development. The Law also recognises that Grandparents are included in this category. However, just because the law recognises this, it still does not mean that Grandparents have AUTOMATIC rights to see their grandchildren.
Grandparents do not have an automatic right to have a relationship with their grandchild
What A Grandparent Can Do Legally
A Grandparent who wants access to their Grandchildren must make a petition for a Parenting Order with the Family Court if they want to access or even potentially custody of their grandchildren. The Grandparents are more likely to be approved if the parents of the child are unwilling to care for the child or lacks the capacity to do so. If there is evidence of child abuse or neglect, the Law can award Grandparents full custody or shared custody with the parents. However, the Court will only do this if it is in the best interests of the child.
Grandparents who are awarded full custody are entitled to the Family Tax Benefit, the Grandparent Child Care Benefit, Double Orphan Pension (if both parents are deceased) and child support (from the remaining parents).
However, if none of these applies, it is very rare for the Court to go against the wishes of the parent who just doesn’t want them in their or their child’s life.
What a Grandparent Should Do Morally
Well, it all boils down to relationships. If a Grandparent goes out of his or her way to be malicious to the child’s mother, they then can’t expect that Mother to welcome them with open arms when Grandchildren come into the picture.
Nor should Grandparents expect a Mother to allow her child to see people the mother consider ‘A threat’ to her child.
Instead, should both parties wish, they should try and mend those relationships to see if a possible relationship with their Grandchildren can be looked at.
- Always respect the wishes of the parents
- Obey any rules set out regarding the parenting of the Grandchildren (ie food choices, bedtimes etc)
- Never bad-mouth the child’s parents to the child.
- Call or message before turning up to see your Grandchild.
- Never argue in front of the kids.
- Always supervise visits if they feel uneasy about the relationship.
- Have an open conversation with the Grandparents away from the grandchildren to set the grounds rules.
- Support their spouses in their decisions.
- Never argue in front of the kids.
But it isn’t easy.
Real-Life Reasons Why Parents Cut off Grandparents
“It’s very simple: If they want to see the kids, they have to treat the parents with respect. If they cannot do that, they can’t see the kids. Thus, they can’t see the kids.
If your child asks, depending on the age, you might tell them that grandma and grandpa can’t follow the rules, so they are in time-out. Or as they age, you can describe to them a bit more about the abuse and make it clear you made a decision to protect yourself and them.”
“We had to cut out my ex husbands mother completely. It took us many years to do so, maybe too many, but in the end we required supervised visitation only, and she had a hissy fit and refused.
For us, it started off with her getting our kid’s hair cut without permission. We discussed that this was not OK, and it kept happening to the point that we knew it was a control thing for her. (She’s fairly unbalanced and lost custody of her own kids when they were young.) We wanted our kids to have grandparents in their lives and kept giving her chances, even after she badmouthed both of us to our kids. Big mistake. The final blow came when she talked us into an overnight stay at her house.
Our kids reported her husband was completely beaten up from a fight outside a bar. He was supposedly sober and in recovery from being a blackout alcoholic and our youngest had nightmares about his disfigured face for months. Then she left them alone with this drunk for a few hours to have coffee with friends. As if that wasn’t enough, she allowed my oldest to go online to an unfamiliar internet chat room unsupervised until 2:00 am, telling her “What happens at grandma’s house stays at grandma’s house.” F**k. That. They haven’t seen her since.
For us, we decided that this woman was a threat to our children’s emotional and physical well being, and that trumps any and all guilt trips from her. I have never regretted it. You need to ensure your child’s emotional and physical safety first and foremost. Our decision isn’t right for everyone. You need to decide what’s right for your child.”
“I have some basic rules for family. No relationship with the parents, no relationship with the child. No child should grow up seeing their mother treated disrespectfully. It is reasonable to want to protect children from toxic people – even if they are family.
To put it another way, if the people treating you this way weren’t ‘family’ would you have them in your life or be debating whether or not they should have a relationship with your children?”
“We never let my wife’s mother be alone with the kids. Not once ever. Never happened. Never going to happen.
Your reasons are your reasons. It is totally up to the two of you. If she (or anyone else) has a problem with that, tough titties. They’ll just have to deal with it.
We’ve never explained at all beyond ‘No, we’re not comfortable with that.’ I don’t think ‘Because she’s an manipulative, abusive psycho.’ would go over very well anyway even though it is quite true.
I’m not really thrilled with the kids seeing her at all, but will allow it for short periods of time if I’m there.
I don’t have any problem with any of the other sets of grandparents watching the kids alone. We’ve left them for multiple days with the other sets of grandparents.”
I Didn’t Trust Her
“My husband’s mother is bipolar and was unmedicated for many years. She had a complete psychotic break at one point, and needed to be hospitalized for a while. It was a long time before I’d trust her alone with my daughter. At this point she’s been on medication and very stable for 5+ years. She’s still a little eccentric, but can be generally relied upon to behave in a responsible fashion with the kid and call me if something unexpected happens.
When I wasn’t allowing her to be alone with the baby, we never explicitly told her that that was our policy. We just never asked her to babysit, and always made sure one of us was present for visits. I’m sure she picked up on it and probably was a little hurt, but she never asked why. I may have peppered in phrases like “I don’t feel ready to leave her with anyone yet” once in a while, even though the other grandparents were already babysitting.”
They Aren’t Attentive Enough for Me To Trust Them
“My husband’s parents are not allowed to have our children unsupervised because of safety concerns. I’ve posted about this before, but FIL left my 18 month old unsupervised in the living room and went into the kitchen to watch TV, where he couldn’t see into the living room. My son slipped out an open sliding door, and was wandering the street when I came back. FIL never noticed he was gone. They asked us to give them another chance when MIL was there, too, but honestly she isn’t much better in the attentiveness department, and often when we are visiting with our children she will just wander off and get into doing something and we won’t see her for a long time and often have no idea where she is. I know they love my children, and my children love them, but until my children are old enough to take better care of themselves, I can’t leave them there unsupervised.
My own parents live far away, and they are attentive and careful, so we will leave the kids with them when we are there for a visit, but this happens once a year at best.
I don’t mind candy and treats, because the kids aren’t with their grandparents every day, and treats are fine sometimes. They also watch way more TV with the grandparents than at home, and that’s fine. I wouldn’t be okay with secret-keeping or bad-mouthing, and I wouldn’t be okay with racist or discriminatory views, but that isn’t something we have encountered with our kids’ grandparents.”
Go With Your Gut
“We’ve cut out my MIL and my father. They were both abusive in their own way with differing addictions. We didn’t want our kids to ever feel the way they made us feel growing up. It was hard at first and we questioned whether it was the right thing for a long time, but after more than a decade we are completely sure we made the right decision.
Go with your gut. As a parent its one of the most important things you have to keep your kids safe and sound.”
They are Toxic
“Cutting them off is not overdoing it. I cut off my own mother. She has severe anxiety and depression and I believe she’s narcissistic as well. When I graduated college, I moved out of my parent’s house and moved two hours away. She told me I was being selfish, she can’t believe I would move so far away, stopped talking to me, tried to convince my dad and siblings to cut ties (one of my siblings did), and would claim she’d kill herself if I didn’t move back home.
She tried to talk to me again once I had kids. Would send a bunch of gifts and say she changed. I didn’t believe her. She’s manipulative and I knew my kids would have the same feelings growing up around her that I did. She would put me down and say I wasn’t good at things or I was gaining a little weight and needed to diet or comment about my looks saying I wore too much makeup or I wore slutty clothes. It was always something and always negative towards me. I could never dress right, look right, be the right weight. It caused a lot of self-doubt and anxiety for me. I never want my kids to experience that kind of feelings
So, I’m short, no, if they are toxic, it’s fine to keep them away. I still see my dad and some of my siblings much to her dismay but I refuse to allow her toxic ass around my kids. Don’t feel bad. You got to protect yourself and your kids.”