I am frequently asked what grandparents’ rights are when they have been prevented from seeing their grandchildren. It is a sad truth that grandparents do not have an automatic right to spend time with their grandchildren, and we see all to often after a relationship breakdown for the parents, grandparents finding themselves excluded by the parent with care of the children. That said, the family courts do recognise the important role that grandparents have to play in their grandchildren’s lives. Therefore, it is rare that the court would refuse a grandparent time with their grandchildren unless there is evidence of abuse. That said, it is likely to be more limited contact than they may wish to have.
Can grandparents apply to the Courts to spend time with their grandchildren?
Most grandparents do not have an automatic right to apply to the court, as most do not have parental responsibility for (usually held by the children’s parents), or care of the children. However, although not having automatic rights grandparents can apply for permission to apply for a Child Arrangements Order, the courts will consider the following:
•Their connection with the child/ren.
•The nature of the application for contact.
•Whether the application might be potentially harmful to the child/ren’s well-being in any way.
If the permission application is successful, you can apply for a Child Arrangements Order through the court to see to your grandchildren. If one, or both parents raise objections there may need to be a report prepared about the impact of contact, and there is also likely to be a full court hearing at which all parties can put forward their evidence. It would be extremely beneficial for you to receive good legal advice at this stage to advise and assist you with persuading the court that you have a meaningful and on-going relationship with your grandchildren, which significantly benefits their lives.
The court will always consider all the child’s circumstances and must only make an order where they consider it better for the child than making no order at all. For example, they might have to weigh up the impact of contact on the family relationships. We have successfully helped many grandparents resolve disputes amicably and gain access to grandchildren. Mediation can be the best first step to try to avoid going to court if possible.
If you need help with access to your grandchildren please do not hesitate to contact us.