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Q - Do grandparents have automatic rights to see their grandchildren?
A - No. There is no automatic right to see grandchildren. It is generally up to the childrens' parent(s) to decide whether children will see grandparents or other family members.
Q - Can a grandparent apply for custody of or access to a child?
A - Yes. However, a grandparent who applies for custody must first get the court's permission to make an application. This is called seeking leave of the court. As of September 1, 2014, grandparents do not need to get the court's permission (leave) to apply for access to a grandchild.
If you are considering going to court to apply for custody or access to a grandchild you should talk with a lawyer.
Q - Does the court automatically give its permission to a grandparent to apply for custody?
A - No. You must convince the court that it would be in the child's best interests to allow the application to go ahead.
Q - How does the court decide whether to give a grandparent leave to apply for custody?
A - The court is guided by the best interests or welfare of the child. For example, the court might look at the length and nature of your prior relationship with the child, whether there is a connection to and positive bond with the child, the potential negative effects of exposing the child to litigation and uncertainty, and whether your involvement in the child's life would be destructive or divisive. No single factor will determine the outcome. Instead, the court looks at a combination of factors like the ones just listed, as well as the specific facts of each situation, to determine whether it would be in the child's best interests to allow the application.
Q - If a grandparent applies to court for custody or access, will he or she automatically get custody or access?
A - No. The court will only grant custody or access if it decides it would be in the child's best interests to do so. The court will conduct an in-depth inquiry before deciding whether it would be in the best interests of the child to grant custody or access. For an access application, two factors the court must specifically look at to decide what is in the child's best interests are:
- where appropriate, the willingness of each parent or guardian to facilitate access with the grandparent; and
- whether a court order is necessary to faciliate access.
Q - Do I have to go to court if I want to see my grandchildren?
A - No. There are a number of options other than court. Try to establish or maintain a positive relationship with the child's parent or parents. Do not criticize either parent in front of the child, nor use the child as a messenger between parents. If a conflict arises, try writing to the parent and explain that you want to work things out together in a non-confrontational way. If you can talk openly with the child's parent or parents, write down what you agree to, in case there are problems later, and have your own lawyer review the agreement prior to signing it. There are also family counsellors, mediators, and conciliators who can help you communicate with the parent or parents and help to solve the problem. You may also wish to join a local support group.
Q - How do I get in touch with a family counsellor or mediator?
A - Family and individual counsellors, including mediators, are listed under 'Marriage, Family and individual counsellors' or under 'Mediation' in the yellow pages of your local telephone book. You may also contact Family Mediation Canada at http://www.fmc.ca/ or 1-877-362-2005, or Family Mediation Nova Scotia.
Q - Where can I get more information?
December 2011, updated September 2014