When a couple makes the decision to separate, the breakdown of the relationship can have far-reaching consequences. Unfortunately, it is often grandparents of any children of the relationship who suffer when they are prevented from seeing their grandchildren as often as they would like. However, there are certain actions grandparents can take in order to maintain and secure the relationship with their beloved grandchildren and in this article we look at some of the solutions to this very sensitive, but not uncommon, legal problem.
Do grandparents have any legal rights?
Under UK law, grandparents do not have an automatic right to contact with their grandchildren (unless they have parental responsibility). However, the Family Courts do recognise the central role grandparents often play in a child’s life and it is very rare that a Court would refuse a grandparent access to their grandchild unless there was clear evidence that it would cause harm to the child to do so.
How can I convince parents to let me see my grandchild?
In the first instance, it is advisable to try to come to an agreement outside the courtroom as this gives grandparents the best chance of maintaining a positive relationship with the child’s parents or any other party involved. Reaching an agreement can be challenging, therefore it may be beneficial to seek the assistance of a mediator. A mediator is an independent third party who can help guide the parties through the discussions and negotiation process with a view to helping them come to an agreement. The mediation process will allow everyone to put their points forward to be discussed and the presence of a mediator can provide practical support and considerations to help keep the negotiations on track. In any event, the matter can be brought before the Courts, it must be demonstrated that the parties have attempted to resolve the situation using mediation.
If mediation is not successful, or where contact has broken down completely, an application to Court would need to be made.
Applying to the court for a Contact Order
Only those with parental responsibility for a child may apply directly to the court for an Order. Grandparents do not automatically have parental responsibility for their grandchildren. As a result, grandparents usually need to apply to the Court for permission to make an application first. If the Court grants the leave (permission), grandparents can then apply for a Child Arrangements Order for the child to spend time with them r which provides a legal basis for contact with their grandchildren. Where the parents of the child raise objections about the child having contact with their grandparents, a full hearing may be necessary, at which a Judge will decide what arrangements to put in place. During the hearing, grandparents must convince the Court that they have an ongoing and meaningful connection with their grandchild and to prevent contact would be detrimental to the child.