I’ve been denied access to my grandchild, what are my rights after a divorce or death?

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"The importance of culture, family and tradition.”(David F/Getty Images)
"The importance of culture, family and tradition.”(David F/Getty Images)

A woman recently took to Reddit to say why she refused to give her daughter's grandparents access to her.

Having lost her fiancé in a car accident (while she was driving), the woman said she was blamed by her fiancé's parents for his death and told to "never contact them again."

Her story

"In the two months after the accident: they blamed me for his death. Constantly told me how I should have died instead of him. They made me give back the engagement ring. They made me give them all the things he ever gave me because I didn't deserve them. They made me give back all the money we saved. They told me they would sue me if I didn't. I asked them why they were doing this and they told me it's because I wasn't family... Then I found out I was eight weeks pregnant... and I left without telling them anything," the woman said.

After eventually learning about their grandchild, the grandparents demanded access, but the woman was determined to keep them away.

ALSO READ | Can a parent or grandparent refuse access without a court order?

We wondered how this would play out in a South African context and asked a legal expert what the law says about grandparents' rights to contact with their grandchildren in SA.

'The right to apply for contact with the child'

"I am frequently tasked by grandparents who wish to re-establish contact with their grandchildren," says attorney Shando Theron, a family and matrimonial law specialist and senior partner at Johannesburg-based firm Theron Inc.

According to Theron, grandparents are legally "considered interested third parties" and, via The Children's Act, "have the right to apply for contact with the child – either through the Children's Court or the High Court."

"If their application is accepted, they can receive an order granting them continued contact with their grandchild or grandchildren," Theron says.

ALSO SEE | 'The mother refuses me access to my child. What can I do to ensure that I play a rightful role in my daughter's upbringing?' An expert assists

Deciding factors

In making a decision, Theron says that the courts will look at several factors, including the best interests of the child, evidence of the relationship and "the importance of culture, family and tradition."

"When bringing the application, it is very important to provide evidence of the relationship that did exist between the parties, and how committed the grandparent is and has been to the child," Theron advises.

If granted, Theron says grandparents will be permitted to communicate with their grandchild "either by telephone, electronic communication or in person," but this does not replace or "take away any parental rights or responsibilities from the parent or parents."

"All parties are considered to play a necessary role in the care and upbringing of the child, and whichever parent is the guardian retains their full rights and responsibilities with regard to the child." 

If you are suffering from a loss of contact with your grandchild or grandchildren, Theron urges you to not hesitate consulting with a family specialist to start the process of re-establishing contact.

Have you been denied access to your grandchild? Tell us your story.

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