Family

Grandparents' rights bill feeds misconceptions

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

New provincial legislation could exacerbate grandparents’ misconceptions about their rights in custody cases, says Brampton lawyer-linguist Suzanne Deliscar.

Bill 34, which recently received royal assent at Queen’s Park, amends the Children’s Law Reform Act to explicitly include grandparents as people who can initiate a custody application in court. The bill also forces judges to consider their emotional ties with their grandchildren when deciding what is in the best interest of the child.

But Deliscar, principal of Deliscar Professional Corporation, a firm that offers legal services in English, French and Spanish, says the new legislation changes little in practice.

“The grandparent advocacy movement has been around for quite some time, but it really seems to be picking up steam,” Deliscar tells AdvocateDaily.com. “I think much of it comes from the fact that people think grandparents have a legal right to see their grandchildren when, in fact by default, they don’t.”

Deliscar says she’s glad the bill didn’t result in any more substantive rights.

“I personally think it’s dangerous to give too many people rights to custody and access. If you’ve got two sets of grandparents, plus the parents, that can make for a really complicated situation,” she says. “Ultimately, it’s parents who are supposed to do what’s best for their children.”

Michael Mantha, the NDP MPP who introduced the private members’ bill, says about 75,000 grandparents in the province have been denied the ability to visit more than 112,000 grandchildren.

During a debate on the bill, he told the legislature how devastating it can be for those impacted, comparing the loss of access to a "bereavement."

“Some people assume that these issues arise out of divorce, but this is not necessarily the case for most,” Mantha added. “Sometimes the root cause is found in sibling jealousy over money, over disputes, people innocently speaking out of turn or sons and daughters exercising their control. Most often, it just occurs with seemingly no logic, no reason.”

However, Deliscar says grandparents may achieve better results with some form of family mediation, rather than resorting to litigation.

“People say there is no logical reason why they were cut off, but I don’t believe that is true in many cases. Much of the time, people will know why, but they don’t want to acknowledge it,” she says. “There has to be honesty and education on both sides for there to be reconciliation.”

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