‘Heartbroken’: Aussie families torn apart
QUEENSLAND grandparents Claire* and John* were absolutely devastated when their beloved grandkids were suddenly taken from them.
After caring for their daughter's four children for more than a year, their drug-using daughter suddenly turned up to take the kids, telling her parents, "You can't see them anymore."
Claire and John's full-time carer role started when their daughter separated from the children's father and struggled to cope with the responsibility.
"Our daughter turned up, said she couldn't cope and left the grandchildren with us. A year passed with us caring for the children and then literally overnight, the kids were taken away from us," Claire told news.com.au
"We were living a happy, normal life and then suddenly our daughter decided she wanted to be a mother again and the kids were gone.
"We were heartbroken."
Shortly after taking the children away from her parents, Claire and John's daughter met a new partner, and gave birth to another child.
"Before we knew it, the grandkids were left back in our care again - the youngest was only six-weeks-old," said Claire.
Claire and John had been full-time, primary carers of the children, giving them the care their mother wasn't able to. So when their daughter returned and took the grandkids away a second time, they knew they had to fight to get them back.
"When our daughter returned again and took our grandkids away yet again, we knew we had to do something about it. We thought, 'Hang on a second, we've been their primary carer and you haven't had any contact with them. You can't just come and take them away and not let us see them.'"
The couple made an application to the Federal Circuit Court; at first it was just to spend time with their grandchildren but, when it became evident their daughter was still using drugs, they took the fight further.
"In the end, we had drug testing requested and the results came back positive. We then ended up changing the application to seek that the children live with us all of the time and we were granted full care of them."
Lawyer Marie Fedorov told news.com.au she's seen a rise in the number of cases involving grandparents taking their children to court.
"Right now, 20 per cent of the cases I'm dealing with involve grandparents wanting access to grandkids. When a family unit breaks down and separates, it is not uncommon for grandparents to become isolated from their grandchildren," Ms Fedorov said.
"This happens far more often than people might realise."
Ms Fedorov, who has been a family lawyer for 13 years, wants older generations to know that they have rights too.
"When a family unit breaks down and separates, it is not uncommon for grandparents to become isolated from their grandchildren. This happens far more often than people might realise and many grandparents don't know about the rights they have," Ms Fedorov said.
If a grandparent isn't being allowed access to their grandchildren, they can make their own court application to get some time with their grandkids.
"Grandparents could follow the same process that parents go through in a parenting procedure," Ms Fedorov said. "Grandparents can make an application through the Federal Circuit Court saying they are a grandparent who is being stopped from having access to their grandchildren.
"Then they ask the court to give them a specified time with the grandchildren. Finally, the grandparents serve the documents on the mother and father."
Ms Fedorov said it's common for one parent to side with the grandparents.
"In many circumstances, one of the parents - usually the relative of the grandparents - will side with the grandparents, working in favour of the grandparents' proposed arrangement," Ms Fedorov said.
"If neither of the parents get along with the grandparents, there's a higher chance that they'll lose access to their grandchildren. In this instance, the best way for the grandparents to arrange time with their grandchildren is by making an application to the Federal Circuit Court.
"Every situation is different and without expert advice and support, grandparents can be left feeling powerless."
Claire and John's grandchildren are continuing to thrive in their care and the couple wants other grandparents to know that they have rights too.
* Names have been changed for privacy.