As a grandparent you may find yourself looking after your grandchild.
You can talk to a lawyer for free at Tasmania Legal Aid.
To get free legal information call 1300 366 611 or use the Legal Talk chat from the bottom right hand corner of this website. Legal Talk and our phone lines are available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
A lawyer can listen to your story and help identify the next steps you can take.
How does family law applies to me as a grandparent?
In Australia family law deals with:
- separation and divorce
- who a child lives with and spends time with
- how property is divided.
A grandparent does not automatically have the right to spend time with their grandchild or have their grandchild live with them.
The law says that a child has the right to be cared for by both parents, regardless of whether the parents are married, separated, have never married or have never lived together.
The law says that a child has a right to communicate and spend time on a regular basis with both their parents and other people significant to their care, welfare and development (such as grandparents and other relatives).
The Court will make decisions about this based on what it considers to be in the child's best interests. The best interests of the child are the most important thing in any family law case.
It is not the parents' right or your rights as a grandparent, which is important. It is the needs of the child and their right to spend time with both parents, and other significant people such as grandparents.
How can I formalise my care of my grandchild?
If you have a grandchild in your care you may want to know if you need to do anything formal or official. You may want to have this arrangement formalised if, for example, evidence of care is required for Centrelink purposes or when consenting to medical treatment for your grandchild.
Verbal or informal agreement
When parents separate they will often come to an agreement about who the child will live with, who the child will spend time with and other areas of the child's life such as schooling and medical treatment etc. This can be done verbally (informally) without signing any documents or going to court.
You may be able to come to an agreement with the parents of your grandchild about your involvement in the child's care arrangements. This option works well if everybody involved trusts each other and can talk well with each other.
Sometimes parents prefer to have their agreements put in writing. This can be done in a parenting plan. The plan states, in writing, the living and care arrangements for their child. Parenting plans can be changed by agreement if future arrangements for the child change.
You may prefer this option if you feel more comfortable having a written agreement with the parents about your grandchild's living and care arrangements.
Consents orders are another way of formalising an agreement for the living and care arrangement for a child. Consent orders can be registered with the family court. This option gives the parties some protection with the family court. This option gives the parties some protection if the agreement is broken by one of them. The family court can then enforce the agreement.
You may prefer to have consent orders prepared, if you have any concerns about one of the parents sticking to the agreement you have with them about your grandchild.
Are grandparents eligible for government or other payments?
If you have a grandchild in your care, there are a number of payments you may be able to get. Contact the Family Assistance Office on 136 150 for assistance.
You can claim Medicare benefits for medical expenses for your grandchild while they are in your care. Contact Medicare on 132 011.
It may be possible to get child support payments from your grandchild's parents. Child support can be a complex part of family law. It is important to get legal advice about this before you apply. You can get legal advice about child support from any legal aid commission or some community legal centres.
What legal services are available?
We recommend you get legal advice about your individual circumstances.
You can contact Legal Aid to speak to a lawyer face to face in private, or speak with a lawyer over the phone. These are generally short sessions in which brief advice is given. The lawyer will discuss with you how you can get further support if you need to go to court, participate in a family dispute resolution conference, or where you could attend a free information session related to your general circumstances. This service is free of charge.