According to the Ontario Family Law, a grandparent does not have an automatic right to see a grandchild. It is generally up to the child’s parents to decide whether the child will see a grandparent or other extended family members. Although there have been efforts to make grandparents’ rights a priority for the court, the law maintains that a grandparent is legally in the same position as any other non parent who has a close relationship with the child. The rights of the child’s parents, including their right to decide who has access to the children, are assumed to be much greater than grandparents’ rights.
In a recent case before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, namely, Nichols v. Herdman, 2015 CarswellOnt 9262 (Ont. S.C.J.), the grandparents sought access to their young grandchild aged two. Prior to the conflict, the grandparents had a close relationship with the child and helped care for the child regularly. However, a conflict escalated between the mother of the child and the grandparents, which resulted in the mother cutting off all ties between the parties.
Justice Stevenson found that although the grandparents had a positive relationship with the grandchild, and while the decisions of the parents had jeopardized the relationship between the grandparents and the grandchild, the parents did not act arbitrarily or not in the child’s best interests.
It is quite clear that these kinds of cases do not belong in a court room. These matters belong in the capable hands of a family therapist and/or mediator who can understand and work with the conflicting views, whilst trying to maintain some kind of a relationship between the grandparent and the child without shattering all the relationships involved.