Grandparents and their rights to grandchildren

There are a variety of reasons why a grandparent may be asking this question and it is important to understand that generally speaking, grandparents do not automatically have access or guardianship rights to their grandchildren. Seeking access to or guardianship of a grandchild is a tricky and sensitive area of family law to navigate.

Access vs. Guardianship

First and foremost, it’s important to understand the difference between seeking guardianship of a grandchild and seeking access to a grandchild. As a guardian you would be responsible for the decision making and care of the child. On the other hand, seeking access to or contact with a child is simply seeking time to spend with the child and does not come with any decision making or guardianship responsibilities.

When it comes to access or contact with a grandchild the courts do expect that the parents of the child facilitate this contact during their own parenting time. This is especially the case when a parent has significant access to their child like 50/50 parenting time.


When can grandparents apply for a contact order?

There are some circumstances that would allow a grandparent to apply to the court for a contact order thereby providing them access to their grandchild. For example, per s. 35(3) of the Alberta Family Law Act a grandparent is able to apply to the court for a contact order if the parents of the child are the child’s legal guardians and the grandparent can show that their contact with the child has been impacted by one of the following two scenarios:

  • The guardians of the child living separate and apart
  • One of the guardians has died

When deciding whether or not to grant a grandparent a contact order the court will need to consider whether or not contact between the child and the grandparent is in the best interest of the child. In making this determination the court will consider the following:

  • The existing relationship, if any, between the grandparent and the child and its significance.
  • Whether a contact order is actually necessary to ensure contact between the grandparent and the child.
  • The impact that a lack of contact may have on the child’s physical, emotional, or psychological health.
  • Whether the parent or guardians’ decision to deny contact is considered to be unreasonable.


Seeking guardianship of a grandchild:

Seeking guardianship of a grandchild is an entirely different scenario. If this is something that you are considering one of our family lawyers will need to meet with you to understand the specific circumstances surrounding your situation. After meeting with you they would be able to assess the strength of your case and provide you with more information regarding next steps.

At Hayes-Fry law our family lawyers have extensive experience helping parties navigate the Alberta family court system and we understand that every situation is unique. If you are wondering how to get started our team knows how to help. Please give our office a call today at 780.831.7370 or email to book a consultation with one of our compassionate and experienced family lawyers.


The following resources were relied on in the preparation of this blog:

  1. Family Law Act, SA 2003, C F-4.5.