The government of Nova Scotia introduced amendments Monday it says will make it easier for grandparents to seek legal access to their grandchildren when parents separate or divorce.

Currently, grandparents seeking access have to ask the court's permission for standing before they can proceed to a hearing.

Justice Minister Lena Diab said the amendments to the Maintenance and Custody Act would remove this step, so courts would proceed directly to considering requests from grandparents for contact. 

'We feel it's their right to have access to their grandchildren.'
- Pauline Glenn, Grandparents Rights of Nova Scotia Association

She said the goal is to make the legal process less difficult for grandparents.

"The more steps you have, the more difficulty you get," said Diab. "It takes more time, it takes more resources and more money."

She said the move is also a recognition of the important role often played by grandparents in a child's life.

"Grandparents often play a key role in children's lives," said Diab. "They can provide love and stability, which is especially important for children going through difficult situations such as family separations.

"These changes stress the importance of grandparents and provide them with direct access to the court when needed to stay involved in their grandchildren's lives."

The changes would also see courts consider including contact with grandparents as a factor in determining what is in the best interests of a child.

Grandparents' group celebrates

Pauline Glenn, president of the Grandparents Rights of Nova Scotia Association, said the changes are important at a time when traditional family structures are less prevalent and the influence of grandparents is growing.

"We feel it's their right to have access to their grandchildren," said Glenn. "The families are different today than when we were brought up."

She said the changes were a long time coming. 

"We have so much to offer our grandchildren and their parents, and we want to play an important role in their lives."