Grandparents’ Rights: Have The Amendments Made Any Difference?

Parents and children are not the only ones impacted by separation and divorce. In the past, grandparents had nearly no legal rights that would grant them access to their grandchildren. But since December 2016, the law changed and Bill 34 became law in Ontario.

This amendment to the Children’s Law Reform Act provides that Courts must now consider the rights of the grandparents when deciding on child custody and access cases. The question is: has the law really advanced grandparents' rights?

Do Grandparents Have An Automatic Right To Their Grandchildren?

The answer to that question is still no. While the court must give consideration to the grandparents, there is no automatic right to access. The main consideration when granting access to parents and grandparents is still the best interests of the children.

On the other hand, it is no longer solely up to the parents whether grandparents receive access. Previously, whether a grandparent received access to their grandchildren was up to the discretion of the parents. Now the courts will also weigh in on whether the grandparents should have visitation rights.

Advancing Grandparents Rights In Ontario

The new bill has finally brought Ontario in line with Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Yukon and Nova Scotia. All these provinces had already passed legislation giving grandparents some legal rights. In Ontario, it took over a decade of activism from advocacy groups to see an improvement in the law.

While groups like Alienated Grandparents Anonymous have welcomed the new law, they also remain cautious. The group recognizes that whether the bill actually makes a difference depends on how the court interprets it.

The first case for grandparents’ rights has yet to go before the courts. Until then, the real-life impact of the bill on grandparents’ rights will remain unknown.

Questions about child custody and access?

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