While reading the paper last weekend, I learned that Sunday, September 7th was Grandparent’s Day. Just like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I think it is appropriate to have a day that is intended to thank and cherish those important people in a child's life who, quite often, play a large role in helping raise our children. I think most grandparents would agree with me.
But, what does the law say in relation to whether a grandparent has a right to play that role?
In Ontario, a grandparent does not have an automatic right to share a relationship with their grandchildren. A grandparent can make a claim for custody or access of a child, however for that claim to have any chance of success, the grandparent will normally first have to show that they have already been a part of the child’s life, and demonstrate that a continued relationship with the child would be in the child’s best interests. These claims have gone through Ontario courts with varied results – the result of any such application is largely fact specific.
There has, however, been a lot of movement by some MPPs in Queen’s Park and MPs on Parliament Hill to provide greater recognition of the role that grandparents play in a child’s life. For example, Bill C-560, a Private Member’s Bill introduced in Parliament last year, sought to place a greater emphasis on a parent’s obligation to support their child’s on-going relationships with both paternal and maternal relatives, including grandparents. You can read my post from last year on shared parenting here. Similarly, Bill 48, also a piece of Private Member’s Business, was debated in the Ontario Legislative Assembly in 2013, which specifically sought to reference that grandparents can apply for custody or access of a child.
It should be noted that this is not the first time that these particular Private Member’s Bills have been introduced, and that neither of them have made it past second reading. It should also be noted that Private Member's Bills, though important, rarely become law. Nevertheless, the discussion is happening and only time can tell how far that discussion will come. What can be taken from the fact that the issue has been debated in both the House of Commons and the Legislative Assembly is that grandparents are special people who have particular interests in playing a role in the lives of their cherished grandchildren.