The law recognises the importance of a child (or children) having a relationship with grandparents, including after the child’s parents have separated.
The Family Law Act 1975 recognises that, as long as it is in their best interests, a child has the right to spend time and communicate with their parents, and other people important to them, such as grandparents, relatives and members of extended families (see section 60B(2)(b)).
Sometimes, grandparents take on a more permanent caring role for their grandchildren.
There are some valuable resources available to assist with defining your role as a grandparent carer:
- Family Relationships Online has information about your role as a grandparent and links to supporting organisations.
- Women’s and Children’s health network discusses various aspects of grandparenting and the roles they play.
- The Australian Parenting website Raising Children has a dedicated grandparent section titled, Being a grandparent carer and a library of grandparent videos, where grandparents talk about becoming full-time carers of their grandchildren.
When a child cannot live with their parents, someone in the extended family, or a family friend, might become their primary carer. This is called kinship care. Kinship carers do not have set roles as parents do. A child may have come to live with you for a short time, until their parents can care for them. Or you could be raising the child in the long term because the child’s parents cannot do it themselves.
Can I apply for parenting orders if I am the kinship or grandparent carer?
You can apply for a parenting order in relation to a child, even if you are not a parent of the child, if you are a grandparent of the child, or you are a person concerned with the care, welfare and development of the child.
For more information and a step-by-step guide, see How do I apply for parenting orders?
Critical Incident List
The Court has established a Critical Incident List for applications that are filed in circumstances where no parent is available to care for a child or children, as a result of death (including homicide), critical injury or incarceration relating to a family violence incident. This List can be used when orders are sought for parental responsibility so that appropriate arrangements to be made for the child or children, such as engaging with schools or health care providers.
The procedure to apply to the Critical Incident List is set out in Family Law Practice Direction – Critical Incident List.
Where can I call for advice?
The Australian Government provides funding to a wide range of agencies and services to provide assistance during family breakdown and when families are separating. The Family Relationship Advice Line is one of these services.
The Family Relationships Advice Line (FRAL):
- gives advice on parenting arrangements after separation
- provides information about family dispute resolution including some financial dispute resolution
- provides information about the family law system and interpretation of Acts and Rules
- provides information on family relationship issues and impact of conflict on children
- refers callers to Family Relationship Centres and other local services that can provide assistance, and
- organises telephone dispute resolution for people unable to attend a family dispute resolution service.
FRAL also provides a legal advice line which is run by qualified lawyers who can assist with advice and forms. If a client requests legal advice, their name and contact details will be taken and a lawyer will call them back.
If a child comes to live with me
How will the child cope with the new living arrangements?
What really matters is how child is parented, not the type of household they live in. If your grandchild still has a secure emotional base, encouragement, routine, protection and the support of a loving parent, his or her needs are probably being met.
Who’s the best person for a child to talk to?
A child might want to talk to you about what’s happening, especially if they’re younger. But you might also find that teenagers would benefit from talking to someone other than you. A confidential telephone counselling service for young people such as Kids Helpline (1800 551 800) can help, or try the Kids Helpline website.
What can I do to help?
- Keep doing the activities that the child likes to do together – for example, visiting the park, playing board games or phoning regularly to keep in touch.
- Talking to the child can help them deal with difficult emotions and fears. When the child is ready to talk, listening to their thoughts and feelings about the situation can help you work out how best to comfort them.
- The child doesn’t need to get involved in any issues between you and their parents. If you need to talk to someone, you could try talking to a friend or chat with others who are caring for children during separation or divorce.
You are not required to be represented by a lawyer, or to seek legal advice, before applying to the Court, or if you have been served with an application. However, family law is complex, and getting legal advice will help you to better understand your rights and responsibilities.
For information on how to get legal advice, see Legal Help.
Practice directions are procedural guidelines issued by the Court. They complement legislation, rules and regulations. They provide specific direction about the practice and procedure that must be followed in certain types of proceedings.
Practice directions are issued by the Chief Justice/Chief Judge upon advice of judges of the Court, pursuant to the Court’s inherent power to control its own processes, as well as the power under the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Act 2021 for the Court to give directions about the practice and procedure to be followed in a proceeding.
In general, practice directions are issued to:
- complement particular legislative provisions or rules of court
- set out more detailed procedures for particular types of proceedings, and
- notify parties and their lawyers of matters which require their attention.
Below are links to the practice directions that apply to this area of law: