Children's right to time with grandparents


What are my grandchild's rights?

When parents separate, sometimes it affects important connections between children and their grandparents. But the law supports these relationships when they are in a child's best interests.

Usually, parents make arrangements that allow their child to carry on relationships with relatives on both sides of their families. Sometimes, however, the conflict between parents spills over to the grandparents and other relatives.

If you aren't allowed to spend time with your grandchild, there are people who can help you try to negotiate an agreement with the child's parents. See our fact sheet Who can help you reach an agreement?

If you can't reach an agreement with the child's parents, you can apply for a court order that allows you and your grandchild to spend time together. This time together is called contact with a child under provincial family law. It's also called access under the federal Divorce Act.

See our fact sheet Best interests of the child to find out what facts the court must consider when it decides on your application for contact with your grandchild.

Normally, it's in a child's best interests to have contact with extended family members, and usually the child's parents will decide on the amount and type of contact. If they refuse to allow contact, a court might find that this refusal is not in the child's best interests.

In the past, the courts have been reluctant to interfere with the guardian's responsibility to take care of their child's upbringing. That means you'll have to show that it's in your grandchild's best interests to have contact with you. It also means that, if you don't get along with the child's parent(s), the court may find that it's not in your grandchild's best interests to give you contact.

Even if the court makes an order that gives you contact, you will not be treated in the same way as a parent when it comes to how often and for how long you can visit.

How can I apply for contact with my grandchild?

If you decide to go to court to get contact with your grandchild, you can use one of our self-help guides (you'll need to apply for what is called a "family order"). Before you can choose a guide, you must first decide which court you will use: Most people apply in Provincial Court for contact under a law called the Family Law Act.

If the parents are getting a divorce, you can apply in Supreme Court as part of the divorce proceeding (you'll have to get permission from the court to do so — talk to a lawyer first if you choose this option).

Tip: It's a good idea to get legal advice before you apply to get or change a contact order.

How can I apply for guardianship of my grandchild?

If you want to become your grandchild's guardian, you have to get a court order. The law says that a person can't become a guardian by just writing it in an agreement (this includes parents who aren't guardians). For more information, see our fact sheet How can you become a guardian?

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