Grandparents: no grandkids for you!

People love grandkids.

And, why not? It’s exciting, right?

You get to play with and spoil a child WITHOUT all the early mornings or dirty diapers. Good deal, right?

Sadly, though, it’s not such a joyful time for everyone...

Sometimes, grandparents are denied any time with their grandkids. And, sometimes, grandparents want to assume all responsibility of the child because their own children (i.e. the parents of the grandkid) are not fit parents, themselves.

And, when this happens, grandparents sometimes go to court.

These cases can get ugly; they can be long, expensive, time-consuming, and emotional…

In cases in which grandparents want more parenting time, the courts will give an enormous amount of respect and deference to the wishes of the custodial parents (i.e. either the biological or adoptive parents).

Here’s an example: Branconnier v. Branconnier, 2006 BCSC 2020.

In this case, the grandparents wanted to spend extra time with their grandchildren during school holidays, and spoiled the children (by giving gifts), all despite (and in the face of) the wishes of the mother. For additional context, the grandparents’ son / children’s father was dead.

In denying the grandparents’ application for extra time, the judge made some important comments:

  1. The wishes of a parent must be respected and must not be interfered with without good evidence;
  2. Grandparents need to accommodate themselves to a parent’s decision regarding the amount and type of access; and
  3. When a judge does order access to a grandparent, that access is (typically) quiet limited, sometimes only one day a month.


Another case you may want to read is Chapman v. Chapman, [1993] B.C.J. No. 316 (BCSC). This case goes through the general rules that are used when determining access relating to a grandparent.

In these types of cases (i.e. when grandparents want to spend more time with their grandchild), it is often best that the parents and grandparents work cooperatively. Grandparents will often get more time this way (vs. going to court). And, in the end, a judge will not typically give more (or much) time to a grandparent if it will only increase conflict between the parties.

Now, how about those other types of cases? How about the cases in which grandparents want to assume all responsibilities and care of the grandchild? Well, they can get ugly, too…

In certain circumstances, a judge will give a grandparent full control and care of the grandchild. But, it’s not an easy case to make.

When it happens, the Court needs to be satisfied that the best interests of the child are served if the grandparent were to assume all care and control.

And, there typically needs to be some strong evidence that the parents are not able to effectively parent on their own. There will often need to be strong evidence of:

  1. drug or alcohol use;
  2. abuse / neglect;
  3. unstable lifestyle;
  4. abandonment of children; or
  5. poor parenting skills.

Again, there is strong presumption in favour of parents, either natural or adoptive, keeping care and control of their children.

Admittedly, this column doesn’t paint the ‘rosiest’ picture for grandparents. But, grandparents shouldn’t fret...

In the end, judges will make orders that are in the best interests of the child. And, a child is no one’s property, no two cases are exactly the same, and there are plenty of cases in which grandparents have ‘won big’.

And now you know.


**The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.

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About the Author

Jeff Zilkowsky is a lawyer practicing at MacLean Law in the Lower Mainland and in Kelowna, and focuses his practice on family law and litigation.  

In his column, Jeff provides information about current legal events or points of interest or concern relating to the law. 

The information contained in Jeff’s column should not be used or relied upon as legal advice.

Comments are always appreciated and encouraged, so don’t hesitate to email Jeff at [email protected]

Visit Jeff’s website at www.jeffzilkowsky.com or visit the website of MacLean Law.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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