Information for Grandparents who have Care of a Grandchild

Are you caring for your grandchild and would like to have an order in place to confirm your decision-making authority for the child? Would you like to confirm the time other important people spend with the child?

Sometimes grandparents have care of a child when a child’s parent(s) is unable to do so.

This section has information on how to get an order to confirm your authority for the child. It is important to have an order, for example, when

  • registering the child for school,

  • making medical decisions, and

  • travel.

It may also be helpful to have an order in place to get child support, and to confirm the times when the child will see other important people in the child’s life such as parents and other grandparents.

Only a lawyer can tell you what your rights are, what to expect from the court process, or what you should or shouldn’t do in your situation.

If you cannot hire a lawyer, consider other ways to get legal advice:

  • get a lawyer through Nova Scotia Legal Aid (

  • meet with a Summary Advice lawyer (contact your local family law court)

  • access a lawyer through an Employee Assistance Plan or a lawyer referral service (

Decision-making responsibility

Grandparents must always ask for the court's permission (leave) when applying for decision-making responsibility of their grandchildren.

When you ask for leave, you will have to explain to the court why you are making the application, why you are asking to have care of your grandchildren, what connection you have (what role you play or have played in your grandchildren’s lives), and why you should be given leave to make your application. A judge will decide whether or not to grant you leave, based on the facts of your case. If you are given leave, you will then address the main application for care of your grandchildren and any other issues such as parenting time for other important people in the child’s life, and child support.

Parents are able to consent (agree) to an order or agreement to give decision-making responsibility of their child to a grandparent(s). When parents do not agree to give a grandparent decision-making responsibility, contact, or interaction with a child, a judge will decide.

A court’s decision about parenting arrangements must be based only on the best interests of the child. Decisions like this are complicated and you should have legal advice to help you decide how to make your application to the court, and to understand what is important to a judge hearing your case.  Learn more about making an application here.

Child Support

Anyone who has decision-making responsibility of a child under provincial law or a parenting time arrangement set out in the Federal Child Support Guidelines (i.e. majority of parenting time, shared parenting time or split parenting time) can make an application to the court for child support. Child support is the money paid by a parent to another ‘parent’ to contribute to the cost of bringing up their children, including the children’s living expenses. A ‘parent’ can include a grandparent who has care of their grandchildren through a court order. Learn more about child support here.


There are services offered in several of the courts in Nova Scotia that can help grandparents get legal advice, or to make a court application. These services differ from court to court, so check with the court where you are making your application.

Learn more about these services here: intakecourt-based ADR ('conciliation')mediationsettlement conferencesassessmentscollaborative family lawParenting Information Programsupervised parenting time/exchange, and the Family Law Information Program.

Getting Legal Advice & Finding a Lawyer

If you are trying to reconnect with your grandchildren, or are involved with, or going to be involved with, the court, it is always a good idea to speak with a lawyer. Only a lawyer can give you legal advice about your situation. Court staff and other legal information providers cannot give you legal advice. Court staff are not allowed to recommend or advertise any paid services, so they cannot give you a list of private lawyers. Learn more about getting legal advice and finding a lawyer here.

Importance of Extended Family

When parents separate, children often need their extended families more than ever. The grandparents and the extended families on both sides of the family can be a resource for the parents and the children. Sometimes the extended family abandons a parent and their children or takes sides. Learn more about the importance of extended family here.

Practising Good Communication

Good communication is important in all relationships. Children benefit from a respectful and cooperative relationship between all parties involved in their upbringing. It is important to have effective communication skills when dealing with the parties involved in the raising of a child. Learn more about practising good communication here. Learn more about family violence here


In some uncommon situations, a grandparent may want to adopt their grandchild. This may occur, for example, if the children have been permanently removed from the care of their parents through a child protection proceeding, and have been placed with their grandparents. Adoptions are complicated legal proceedings with serious and permanent consequences. You should speak with a lawyer for advice if you are considering adopting a child, even if it is your grandchild. Learn more about adoption here.

Community Agencies & Resources

For a listing of agencies and services available in Nova Scotia, please go to Community Agencies & Resources.

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