ClickCease Do Grandparents Have Child Access Rights? – SplitEasy

Do Grandparents Have The Right To Visit Their Grandchildren?

Do Grandparents Have The Right To Visit Their Grandchildren?

Can a relative claim child access rights for a child who lives with their parents? In the March 2, 2001 decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Chapman v. Chapman, the the issue was whether access by a grandparent to grandchildren who live with their parents should be imposed over the wishes of those parents and the children. 

The application for access, in this case, was made by Esther Chapman, the grandmother of 10 year-old Eric Chapman and his 8 year-old sister Leanna. They are her only grandchildren. The family lives in Cobourg, Ontario, and the grandmother lives in Toronto. 

The grandmother had visits with the children approximately three to six times annually, usually on religious holidays. Visits with the children were almost always in the presence of their parents. The parents had increasing concerns over the grandmother’s diminished capacity to care for the children on her own. 

In 1998, the grandmother applied to the court for monthly visits and weekly telephone contact with her two grandchildren. The provincial appellate court decided that it is the children’s parents – not their grandmother – that have total and final authority to determine if and when the children visit with their grandmother. 

Child access is the exclusive right of parents

The court decided that: “Larry and Monica Chapman, not Esther Chapman, are responsible for the welfare of the children. They alone have this legal duty. Esther Chapman, as a grandparent, loves her grandchildren and, understandably, wants to maintain contact with them.

Nonetheless, the right to decide the extent and nature of the contact is not hers, and neither she nor a court should be permitted to impose their perception of the children’s best interests in circumstances such as these where the parents are so demonstrably attentive to the needs of their children. 

The parents have, for the moment, decided that those needs do not include lengthy, frequent visits with their grandmother. Although the parents’ conflict with Esther Chapman is unfortunate, there is no evidence that this parental decision is currently detrimental to the children. It should therefore be respected by the court and the children’s best interests left in the exclusive care of their parents.” 

The grandparent, thus, failed in her claim for greater visitation rights to her grandchildren. This case shows the complexity of child access issues and family law in particular.

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