Grandparents and others

Grandparents and family members can be important people in a child’s life and can be their main carer in some cases. There can also be other adults who are important in a child’s life, even if they are unrelated (for example, a step-parent).

This page has information about family law and how grandparents and other significant people can be involved in arrangements for children.

You can find information about grandparents and other family members being involved in arrangements for children in protection and care cases on our webpage: Child protection - Grandparents and other family members.

What can I do if a child has been removed from my care?

If you are a child’s main carer and they have recently been taken out of your care by the child’s parent or another person without your permission, you should get urgent legal advice. You may need to make an urgent application to the Family Court for a recovery order. Legal Aid WA has a free duty lawyer service based at the Family Court of WA which can give advice and assistance with recovery orders.

Can a non-parent apply to the Family Court for orders about a child?

The law makes it clear that any person concerned about a child’s welfare can apply to the Family Court for orders about a child. This could be a grandparent, family member or other person who is unrelated to the child.

What if I'm already caring for a child?  

There is no legal requirement to have court orders about the care of a child. For example, you might have an informal agreement with the child's parents, which has been in place for a long time and has worked well.

Depending on your situation, it might be helpful to apply to the Family Court for orders to formalise the care arrangements and give you parental responsibility for the child. An order for parental responsibility would give you the legal ability to make major long-term decisions about the child including what school they go to and medical treatment.

You can apply to the Family Court for consent orders if you and the parents agree on orders. If the court approves the orders they are then legally binding. Applying for consent orders does not start a Family Court case.

If you cannot agree and are thinking about starting a case in the Family Court, you should get legal advice before applying.

How does the Family Court decide what orders to make?

When the Family Court decides what orders to make for a child, the most important consideration is the best interests of the child. The term "best interests of the child" has a special meaning in family law. The law requires the court to take into account a number of considerations when deciding what is in a child's best interests.

The court will make orders for a child to live with, spend time with, and communicate with parents and other people (including grandparents), based on what is going to be best for the child.

I am having trouble spending time with a child, what can I do?

Generally the first step is to try and speak to the parents and try to reach an agreement. This could be to talk to the parents in person or in writing (for example, by sending an email or text).

If you have a difficult relationship with a parent of a child, you may wish to consider inviting them to attend counselling or therapy with you. You can find information about separation services that offer counselling in the infosheet: Support for separating parents (these services can also provide support to other family members).

If you cannot work things out by talking to the parents, you may wish to try Family Dispute Resolution (FDR). This is a type of mediation.

Do I need to do anything before I can start a Family Court case about a child?

In most cases the law requires you to try Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) before starting a case in the Family Court of WA for orders about a child. There are some exemptions to this, including when the situation is urgent or there has been or is a risk of family violence or child abuse.

If you cannot reach an agreement and are thinking about starting a case in the Family Court, you should get legal advice before applying.

How can I join a current Family Court case about a child?

If you want to join a current Family Court case about a child, you will need to apply to the court to be joined as a party. You should get legal advice about this situation because it is complex.


Reviewed: 29 January 2024


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.