The law in Australia does not give grandparents a right to have contact with their grandchildren.
In the process of making parenting orders, the paramount consideration for the Court is the best interests of the children. Pursuant to section 60B(2)(b) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), these include, amongst other things, a right to spend time on a regular basis with and communicate on a regular basis with, both their parents and other people significant to their care (such as grandparents and other relatives).
As a ‘relative’ as defined in the Act, grandparents who are affected by the breakdown of their own children’s family or who, for reasons other than family breakdown, find themselves as part of a dysfunctional family unit, can bring proceedings under the Act seeking parenting orders with respect to their grandchildren.
Such applications will generally be for orders that the grandchildren spend time and communicate with their grandparents but in certain circumstances (e.g. where the children have been subjected to family violence, neglect, drug and/or alcohol abuse or their parents are incarcerated) orders sought can include orders that the grandchildren actually live with the grandparents and that the grandparents have parental responsibility for the grandchildren (to the exclusion of the parents).
When considering what orders should be made, the court will always ensure that the best interests of the children are met by the orders being made.
Save in cases of emergency, grandparents will generally need to attempt some form of mediation with the parents before parenting orders are sought from the court.
Every case has its own peculiarities, and legal advice should be sought by grandparents who are being prevented from having any type of meaningful relationship with their grandchildren.