Most children are lucky enough to have a close relationship with their grandparents, but what if the grandparents are unable to see their grandchildren? What rights do the grandparents have in such a situation?
Difficulties in grandparents seeing their grandchildren can occur as a result of the breakdown of their relationship with the parents or, more commonly, the breakdown of the parents’ relationship, where the grandchildren then live with the parent who is not their child.
Whatever the situation, there are certainly steps that the grandparents can take to (re-)establish contact with their grandchildren.
The first step, of course, is to try to agree contact with the parents if they are still together, or if they are separated, with the parent with whom the children live.
Such an agreement can be reached directly, through lawyers, or via mediation, if both parties agree to mediation.
But if agreement is not possible then the grandparents can apply to the Family Court for a child arrangements order allowing them to have contact with the grandchildren.
Such an application is essentially the same as a child arrangements application made by a parent, save for one important factor: Before the grandparents can proceed with the application they must first obtain the leave (or permission) of the court to make the application.
When considering whether to grant leave, the court will have particular regard to the nature of the application, the grandparents’ connection with the child, and any risk there might be of the proposed application disrupting the child’s life to such an extent that they would be harmed by it.
This means that a parent can oppose the grandparents having leave and slow down the process or even end the application without a full hearing. This is different to the position in other jurisdictions including Scotland and the government has discussed reform but this has not proceeded as yet.
If leave is granted the main application will continue, and the court will decide what, if any, contact the grandparents should have with the grandchildren. As in applications by a parent, there are a range of orders the court can make including indirect, direct and for overnights and holidays.
The court will make the decision in accordance with what it considers best for the welfare of the grandchildren. Specifically, the court will consider such matters as the ascertainable wishes of the children (considered in the light of their age and understanding), the children’s needs and the capability of the grandparents of meeting those needs, and any harm that the children are at risk of suffering.
In most instances the court will consider that contact with their grandparents is likely to be good for the children’s welfare. It is therefore likely that a contact order will be made, although the amount of contact will again depend upon what the court considers best for the grandchildren.
If you are a grandparent seeking contact with your grandchildren then you should seek expert legal assistance. We can find you an expert that works with you on our digital platform. For more information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.
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