Q: My daughter passed away suddenly last year and since then my 10-year old grandson has lived with his father, who is stressed out with work and keeps losing his temper with the boy. My grandson regularly asks me if he can come and live with me. Can I apply to the Court for an Order and if so, at what age will they take the child’s views into account?
A: A grandparent or other relative cannot automatically apply to the Court for an Order concerning a child without first applying for leave or permission to make such an application. The Court would consider the nature of the application, your connection to the child and whether the application would disrupt the child’s life in any harmful way. As the application itself would not harm the child you would probably be given permission to apply for the Order. The Court would then take into account the child’s ascertainable wishes and feelings, together with factors surrounding his welfare, as set out in the ‘Welfare checklist’. There is no set age that a child can make their own decisions. Much will depend on the particular circumstances of the case.
Prior to making an application to the Court you would, however, have to attempt mediation. It would therefore be advisable to try and discuss the issues with the boy’s father and reach agreement. Family mediation may assist in this and could prevent litigation via the Family Court, which would just add to everyone’s distress at what has clearly been a very difficult time. That said, if you feel your grandson is being placed at risk in his father’s care, it may well be in his immediate best interests to be removed from the situation. You should contact a family lawyer to discuss these issues more fully.