Family life doesn’t always run smoothly. Sometimes relationships can break down to the point where contact between family members is completely cut off.
Grandparents are increasingly prominent in children’s lives, as the cost of childcare pushes parents to turn to them for help. When relationships are so close, being denied access to your grandchildren can be heartbreaking.
Sadly, legal rights are limited when you’re a grandparent, but there are some things you can do. Here’s everything you need to know about grandparents’ rights…
What Rights Do Grandparents Have To See Their Grandchildren?
Unfortunately grandparents do not have an automatic right to have contact with their grandchildren. However, the courts increasingly acknowledge the important role grandparents play in children’s lives.
Only people with parental responsibility (parents or legal guardians) can apply to the courts for a Contact Order. But grandparents can apply for permission to apply for a Contact Order. If permission is granted you can then apply for a Contact Order. However, if the child’s parents raise objections then there would likely be a full hearing where both parties put forward evidence.
Courts consider the relationship of the grandparent to the child, the frequency of contact, and whether contact might have a negative effect on a child’s well-being. The good news is that it’s becoming increasingly rare for the courts to refuse a grandparents application for contact with a grandchild, unless there is evidence of abuse or violence.
Decisions on contact now come under Child Arrangement Orders, which were introduced through the Children and Families Act 2014 (replacing contact and residence orders). Child Arrangement Orders decide where a child lives or the contact they have with any person. When determining whether to make, vary, or discharge such an order, a court’s “paramount consideration” is the welfare of the child.
Grandparents Rights After Separation Or Divorce…
Sometimes contact with grandchildren is thrown in doubt due to the separation or divorce of their parents. When this happens, as difficult as it may be, it’s important for grandparents to try to maintain relationships with both parents.
Try to remain neutral, even if it’s your own child distressed from a separation, and focus on the grandchildren for your best chance of ongoing contact and stability for the children.
The Future For Grandparents Rights…
More and more grandparents are heading to court to secure contact with their grandchildren. Calls have been made as recently as May 2018 to amend the 1989 Children Act to acknowledge the importance of grandparents in their grandchildren’s lives and enshrine grandparents rights in law. For now, in UK law, automatic access rights only extend to those with parent responsibility but the balance is definitely tipping in the direction of grandparents rights.
Family law is complex and highly emotive. If you’re seeking contact with your grandchildren or need further advice, you should find a specialist family lawyer with substantial experience in this area. They will understand your situation and approach your case with compassion as well as expertise.
Family disputes and relationship breakdowns cause heartbreak for all involved, and it’s easy to overlook the significance of a child’s wider family members in their lives. In an ideal world, families would be able to work things out among themselves or via mediation. This is not always possible but you should always try to agree contact arrangements privately first.
However, for many, pursuing contact through the courts is their only option for continuing relationships with their grandchildren. If you need advice on grandparents rights or help to apply for a Contact Order, get in touch with our team today.