Grandparents often play a very important role in the lives of their grandchildren. However, where there has been a breakdown in communication or of the relationship between the parents, grandparents may find themselves excluded if one of the parents denies access to any extended family members of relatives of their ex-partner. This can lead to upset for all involved including the children and the grandparents who may have had a close relationship or bond with each other until that time.

During 2013, new legislation was prepared to legislate for the rights of grandparents to see their grandchildren and to have custody of them in certain circumstances.

The Rights of Grandparents Bill 2013 makes provision for the recognition of the grandparent as a key part of the family unit, by adding a definition of “grandparent” to Section 2 of the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964.

Currently, grandparents have to go through a two tier system to obtain an access order in respect of their grandchildren. Under this new legislation, the requirement to obtain the leave of the court will no longer apply in the case of grandparent. A “grandparent” will be defined as “of whole/half blood or by affinity and includes the spouse of such person, a parent of a child’s adopted parent and an adoptive parent of a child’s parent.”

The new Bill seeks to recognise that grandparents play a central role in the lives of their grandchildren and are frequently at the core of the modern family unit by adding them to the category of person who can apply for custody of a child. It does not go so far as to allow them to be appointed legal guardian, even when the parents of the children are not caring for the children or exercising their rights of guardianship.

The new legislation will allow grandparents to seek custody of their grandchildren where appropriate. The matters to be taken into consideration by the Court are the Applicant’s connection with the child, the risk of disruption to a child’s life and the wishes of the parents and the wishes of the child.

The Rights of Grandparents Bill 2013 will not legally come into force until it has passed through both houses of the Oireachtas successfully.

It is interesting to note that decisions relating to Adoption or appointment of Testamentary Guardians still remain with the parent even when an order is made pursuant to this Act.

If you feel you would benefit from legal advice, kindly contact us.  We have extensive experience dealing with a breadth of family law matters.