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Child access rights for grandparents

Two items FYI.

Child access rights for grandparents

The Age
18 January 2009

Child access rights for grandparents
By Josh Gordon with Reid Sexton

Grandparents will be encouraged to maintain links with grandchildren in messy family breakups and help resolve custody disputes under changes to be announced by the Federal Government today.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland said he wanted courts and family relationship centres to help grandparents affected by separations by providing them with information on their rights and involving them in disputes when appropriate.

Mr McClelland said under the changes grandparents would be able to get advice on family law issues and potentially become involved in court proceedings if they believed it would benefit their interests or the child's.

"This has been suggested by judges I've had discussions with, particularly in cases where relations between parents are dysfunctional, grandparents can be a real saving grace, giving them (the judges) options for residence and to provide some stability in the child's life," Mr McClelland told The Sunday Age.

"It is a relationship that can provide children with love, support and additional care, particularly during times of family relationship difficulties."

Under the changes, the Australian Institute of Family Studies is being commissioned to examine how family law changes introduced in 2006 have affected grandparents, and also whether grandparents have proved a positive influence in traumatic family breakdowns. It is also working on new guidelines to help Family Relationship Centres deal with cases involving grandparents, including counselling parents on the importance of grandparents after family breakdowns.

Resources such as DVDs and brochures informing grandparents of their rights will be distributed by the courts and government agencies, while legal aid centres are being given about $400,000 to extend dispute resolution services to grandparents.

Grandparents are also being given access to the Parting Order Program, where separating families involved in particularly difficult disputes are given access to counselling and dispute resolution services.

Under the 2006 changes, grandparents were given rights to participate in counselling and family dispute resolution with children's parents.

Grandparents were also given rights to apply for parenting orders and child maintenance.

Campaigner Dian Underwood said the moves did not tackle the key issues facing estranged grandparents, especially the complexity and expense of the legal system.

"We don't need more studies," she said. "It's the same old rhetoric.

"What we need is a legal system that is accessible  it needs to be simplified."

Ms Underwood said there were thousands of estranged grandparents across Australia, and called on the Government to establish a register so estranged grandchildren could track down their grandparents when they are older.

"The children's identity is stolen," she said. "It's the grandchild's right … to know their grandparents."

New Resources to Assist Grandparents

From: Adam Sims
Date: Sun, 18 Jan 2009 18:15
Subject: Attorney-General Media Release - New Resources to Assist Grandparents.

New Resources to Assist Grandparents

Attorney-General Robert McClelland today announced that the Rudd Government will provide increased resources through the family law system to help grandparents maintain positive relationships with their grandchildren.
The initiatives being undertaken by the Government include:
- Commissioning the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) to examine the impact of the 2006 family law reforms on grandparents;  
- Producing information brochures, booklets and DVDs on the importance of children maintaining strong relationships with significant people in their lives, including grandparents;
- Developing and issuing guidelines to be used by Family Relationship Centres when dealing with cases involving grandparents; and
- Exploring how the Parenting Orders, Post Separation Cooperative Parenting and Supporting Children After Separation programs can better include discussions about the importance of grandparents and other extended family members.
This work complements the $400,000 provided by the Rudd Government to Legal Aid Commissions last year to enhance the delivery of family dispute resolution services to grandparents and other extended family members.
The Government is committed to investing in the relationship between a child and their grandparents.
It is a relationship that can provide children with love, support and additional care, particularly during times of family relationship difficulties, he said.
I am confident that these materials will lead to better outcomes for families including grandparents and, most importantly, their grandchildren, Mr McClelland said.
Media Contact:  Adam Sims  0419 480 xxx


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