Very often grandparents feel helpless when their adult children are separated or divorced, in that they want to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren but can feel cut off at times – either deliberately by the parents, or circumstantially because of the stress of the situation their children are going through. Grandparents have one thing in common – they want to be there for their children and for their grandchildren. Here are some things to consider.
What should grandparents do if they are cut off from their grandchildren during a separation or divorce? Do grandparents have the right to spend time with their grandchildren?
In certain circumstances grandparents may apply to the Court to request court-ordered time with their grandchildren if they are cut off from them by the parents.
The rules for making these applications are different in Alberta versus in Saskatchewan. There are some situations where a grandparent is automatically entitled to apply to the court for time with their grandchildren, and there are other situations where a grandparent has to ask permission of the court before bringing such an application.
Ultimately, provided that the court hears the application, the best interest of the children will be the determining factor in the court’s ultimate award.
However, a court application to demand time with your grandchildren is likely the culmination of an already strained relationship between the grandparent and one or both biological parents. The result even if the grandparents get that court ordered time is surely going to be an even more strained relationship, with the grandchildren feeling that toxic environment.
Is mediation an option for grandparents experiencing resistance to spending time with their grandchildren as well?
I have grandparents coming to me telling me that they’ve been cut off from their grandchildren, and asking how they can resolve the issue.
My first recommendation is typically to encourage them to try mediation as a first step in resolving the situation.
In mediation, we are able to work on having the grandparents and the parents work out their differences so that they can come up with a solution which is in the best interest of the grandchildren.
Usually the parents have concerns which cause them to deny the grandparents time with the grandchildren in the first place. If we can address those issues through mediation, then we can usually come up with a solution for the grandchildren to have a relationship with the grandparents which is agreeable to all parties concerned.
Often an open and frank discussion with professional support such as a mediator can really help to bridge the gaps between grandparents and parents.
What if the resistance is from the grandchildren – that they don’t want to spend time with the grandparents?
Again, processes like mediation can resolve all sorts of relationship issues – this extends to issues between grandparents and grandchildren as well.
If the parents are supportive of the relationship despite the resistance, then most definitely a mediation process could help to get all of the issues out on the table to resolve the conflict and work towards repairing the relationship.
Very often in these sorts of disputes, we would have the grandparents, the parents, and one or more grandchild at the mediation table.
When people take a rights-based approach through the court system, it often results in damaging a relationship further. A grandchild is not likely to be more willing to spend time with their grandparent by being told that a court is making them do it.
If we can openly work together on getting to the root of the issue through mediation, we have a better opportunity to resolve the matter positively once and for all.
Henka Divorce Law & Mediation is a Collaborative Law and Family Mediation firm that helps families thrive as they transition to separation, divorce, or cohabitation. Understanding that every journey is different, we guide families through the right legal or mediation process that fits their unique situation.
Our client service is built on three pillars – focusing on the future, nurturing and supporting children, and working together towards well-being. This includes considering everyone’s needs throughout the process. We work closely with families to provide a meaningful and fair resolution, while keeping costs down by staying out of court.
We serve families in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada through their separation or divorce by providing in-person and virtual Collaborative Law or Mediation services.
With extensive knowledge in matrimonial law, our founder Stephanie Dobson uses a caring, results-focused approach to help parents navigate a family separation or divorce while they connect with and support their children. Learn more about her approach and credentials.