Do children have a right to time with their grandparents?

Some terms in the Divorce Act changed on March 1, 2021

Effective March 1, 2021, the federal Divorce Act uses terms similar to those in the BC Family Law Act.

  • The terms decision-making responsibility and parenting time replaced "custody."
  • The terms contact and parenting time replaced "access."

When parents separate, it can be hard for grandparents to spend time with their grandchildren. This can affect their relationship.

If having relationships with their grandparents is in the children's best interests, the law says the children have a right to keep those relationships.

The rights of your grandchild

Usually, parents make arrangements that let their children stay in touch with the families of both parents.

But sometimes the parents' problems mean the grandparents and other relatives don't get to see the children. The law supports your relationship with your grandchildren as long as it's in the children's best interests.

If you aren't allowed to spend time with your grandchildren, see Who can help you reach an agreement? If you want to try making an agreement with the children's parents, there are people who can help.

If you can't reach an agreement, you can apply for a court order that lets you and your grandchildren spend time together. Provincial family law calls this time together "contact with a child," or just "contact." The federal Divorce Act also calls it contact.

See Best interests of the child to find out what factors the court must think about when it looks at your application for contact with your grandchildren. Every situation is different.

If the parents refuse to allow contact, the court:

  • might decide this refusal isn't in the children's best interests, and
  • might decide to make an order for contact.

But the court usually doesn't want to interfere with the rights and responsibilities of parents caring for and raising their children.

If you don't get along with one or both of the children's parents, the court might find that it's not in your grandchildren's best interests to give you contact.

Even if the court makes an order that gives you contact, you won't have the same rights as a parent when it comes to how often and for how long you can visit.

Applying for contact with your grandchild

If you decide to go to court to get contact with your grandchildren, you'll need to apply for a court order. You can use our guides to help you with this.

Before you start, you have to decide which court you'll use. Most people apply in Provincial Court for contact under the Family Law Act. But if the parents are getting a divorce, you could apply in Supreme Court as part of the divorce proceeding. You'll need permission from the court before making this application, though. Speak to a lawyer first if you want to do this.

See Do you need to go to Provincial (Family) Court or Supreme Court? to find out more about choosing which court to use.

Applying for guardianship of your grandchild

If you want to be your grandchildren's guardian, you have to get a court order.

Provincial law says that a person who's not a parent can't automatically become a guardian even if it's written in an agreement.

See How can you become a child's guardian? for more information about becoming a guardian under the Family Law Act.

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

Updated on 1 March 2021