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Do grandparents have the right to visit their grandchildren?

By: Steven Benmor, B.Sc., LL.B., Family Lawyer

Jurisdiction: Ontario (Canada)

In the March 2, 2001 decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Chapman v. Chapman, the issue was whether access by a grandparent to grandchildren who live with their parents should be imposed over the wishes of those parents and children. The application for access in this case was made by Esther Chapman, the grandmother of 10 year old Eric Chapman and his 8 year old sister Leanna. They are her only grandchildren. The family lives in Cobourg, Ontario, and the grandmother lives in Toronto. The grandmother had visits with the children approximately three to six times annually, usually on religious holidays. Visits with the children were almost always in the presence of their parents. The parents had increasing concerns over the grandmothers diminished capacity to care for the children on her own.

In 1998, the grandmother applied to the court for monthly visits and weekly telephone contact with her two grandchildren.

The provincial appellate court decided that it is the children’s parents – not their grandmother – that have total and final authority to determine if and when the children visit with their grandmother. The court decided that “Larry and Monica Chapman, not Esther Chapman, are responsible for the welfare of the children. They alone have this legal duty. Esther Chapman, as a grandparent, loves her grandchildren and, understandably, wants to maintain contact with them. Nonetheless, the right to decide the extent and nature of the contact is not hers, and neither she nor a court should be permitted to impose their perception of the children’s best interests in circumstances such as these where the parents are so demonstrably attentive to the needs of their children. The parents have, for the moment, decided that those needs do not include lengthy, frequent visits with their grandmother. Although the parents’ conflict with Esther Chapman is unfortunate, there is no evidence that this parental decision is currently detrimental to the children. It should therefore be respected by the court and the children’s best interests left in the exclusive care of their parents.”

Steven Benmor

About the author: Steven Benmor practices Family Law in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Visit Steven Benmor’s online Family Law Resource Center for concise answers to many more frequently asked Family law questions, feature articles on Family law topics, dozens of links to other Family law websites, and more at The information on this page is for discussion purposes only. It is by no means legal advice or even a statement of the law on this subject. Please do not rely on the accuracy or completeness of this information. Any question or concern elicited by the information on this page should be taken to a lawyer who will consider the facts of each case and the legal remedies available.