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Ontario grandparents seeking custody or access to their grandchildren

The grandparent-grandchild relationship is often strong and affectionate, but a grandparent can also provide guidance, emotional support, and a sense of family history and culture to a grandchild. These important ties can be interrupted when the parents of those grandchildren separate or divorce. Ontario law gives grandparents seeking custody the option to seek custody of or access to their grandchildren in situations like these.

For example, a parent may not want the parent of their ex-partner to spend time with their child to which the grandparent may object, not wanting an interruption in the relationship with their grandchild. Grandparents seeking custody may have concerns over how the parents are handling their parental responsibilities after separation or divorce.

Ontario Children’s Law Reform Act

Provincial law gives a grandparent the right to make an application to the court for custody or access to their grandchild. The application must describe the grandparent’s proposals for “care and upbringing,” the grandparent’s previous involvement in any family or criminal legal proceedings, and information the grandparent has that is relevant to the best interests of the grandchild.

Grandchild’s best interests

The court’s decision-making on the grandparent’s application is based on an analysis of the child’s best interests considering all their “needs and circumstances,” including specific items listed in the law:

  • “[L]ove, affection, and emotional ties” the child has with all persons with rights to or seeking custody or access, other relatives with whom the child lives and anyone else involved in the grandchild’s care and upbringing
  • Grandchild’s “views and preferences”
  • Duration of time the child has been in a stable home
  • For custody, each applicant’s willingness and ability to give the child “guidance and education, the necessaries of life and [help meeting] any special needs of the child”
  • Proposed care plans of each person seeking custody or access
  • “[P]ermanence and stability” of the family unit where the child would reside
  • The ability of an applicant to serve as a parent
  • Family relationships between the grandchild and all people applying for custody or access

This court proceeding gives Ontario grandparents seeking custody the opportunity to tell the court all the reasons it would be in the grandchild’s best interest to give the grandparent custody or access, depending on the circumstances.

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