Montreal's senior monthly since 1986

Feb '10

Columns

Why can’t I see my grandkids?

Grandparents are sometimes refused access to their grandchildren when their relationship with the children’s parents becomes strained.

The law provides that every decision concerning a child must be taken in the child’s best interests, and protects children’s right to a personal relationship with their grandparents, maintaining that parents must not interfere with that right without establishing a “grave reason” to do so.

However, it also stipulates parents’ duty to protect their children and children’s right to that protection. Where the child’s right to protection comes into conflict with the right to the relationship, a judge must decide what constitutes enough of a “grave reason” to justify parental interference.

When a grandmother petitioned for access to her 11-year-old granddaughter and newborn grandson, the judge interviewed the granddaughter and found her sufficiently mature and intelligent to end the relationship if necessary. In order not to subject the child to a loyalty conflict, the judge fixed exact times of visitation and telephone contact. He also found the new baby too young for contact with the grandmother to be permitted. The factors in rendering this decision were the child’s wishes, age and maturity level, and past relationship with her grandmother.

In another case when a mother stopped the relationship of her 4-year-old son with his grandfather who walked around the house naked with his girlfriend, and occasionally used drugs and could become aggressive, the court decided it was not in the best interest of the child to stay in this milieu, even for a few hours. The decision was that the grandfather’s behaviour constituted a sufficiently grave reason to deprive him of physical contact with the child. The court did however permit limited and specific telephone contact and ordered the mother to refrain from interfering with those calls. This way the judge protected the child while preserving his right to a relationship with his grandfather.

Every case is different, every case is special – but every child has a right to know his or her grandparents.

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