Parental relationship breakdown can obviously lead to problems in relation to contact between children and (one of their) parents. But it can also create a rift between the children and their grandparents, particularly on the side of the parent with whom the children are not living.
What rights do grandparents have in such a situation?
Well, firstly it is not appropriate to talk of ‘rights’. A grandparent (and even a parent) does not have ‘rights’ in relation to the (grand)child. It is all a question of what is best for the children, as we will explain in a moment.
But grandparents are not in the same position as parents. Before they can apply to a court for an order allowing them to have contact with their grandchildren, they must first obtain the leave (or permission) of the court to make the application.
When deciding whether to grant leave the court must have regard in particular to two matters:
1. The grandparent’s connection with the child. This means that a grandparent who has had a close relationship with the child is more likely to be granted leave; and
2. Any risk there might be of the proposed application disrupting the child’s life to such an extent that the child would be harmed by it. This could, for example, mean that a serious rift between the grandparent and (one of) the parents could be a factor, but it really boils down to the issue of the child’s welfare.
These matters may give the impression that many grandparents will be refused leave to apply for contact with their grandchildren. However, that is not the case. It is actually quite rare for a leave application to be refused.
Once leave has been obtained the grandparent can proceed with their application for a contact order. As indicated above, the court will decide what contact to order, if any, by reference to what is best for the welfare of the child.
In most cases the court will consider that the welfare of the child will be best served by the child continuing to have a relationship with their grandparents. Accordingly, most applications by grandparents are successful, although obviously one would expect the amount of contact ordered to be less, or less frequent, than the contact that might be ordered in favour of a parent.
If you are a grandparent seeking contact with a grandchild then we can put you in touch with an expert family lawyer to assist you in making an application. For more information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.
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