When a couple makes the decision to divorce, the breakdown of the relationship can have far-reaching consequences. Unfortunately, grandparents of any children of the relationship can suffer and even be prevented from seeing their grandchildren as often as they would like. However, there are certain actions grandparents can take to secure child arrangements with their grandchildren and in this article, we look at some of the solutions to a very sensitive legal problem.
Do grandparents have any legal rights?
Under UK law, grandparents do not have an automatic right through the courts to see their grandchildren (unless they have parental responsibility which would normally be in the form of a court order or formal agreement). However, the family court does recognise the crucial role grandparents often play in a child’s life and as a result, a court would not usually refuse a grandparent to have contact with their grandchild unless there was clear evidence of abuse or violence.
How can I convince the parents to let me see my grandchild?
In the first instance, you should try to come to an agreement outside the courtroom – this gives you the best chance of maintaining a positive relationship with the child’s parents or any other party involved. Coming to an agreement outside of a courtroom can be challenging, so you may benefit from the assistance of a mediator. Before you can take court action, you must demonstrate to the court that you have attempted to resolve the situation using mediation or some other form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). A mediator will guide you through the negotiation process allowing everyone to put their points forward and provide practical and objective support to help keep your discussions on track.
If you are not successful in reaching an agreement through mediation or other ADR, or where contact has broken down completely, you will need to make an application to the court.
Applying to the court for a Contact Order
Making an application to the court is typically a two-step process.
Only people with parental responsibility for a child may apply directly to the court for a Contact Order. As a result, grandparents usually must first apply for permission (leave) to make an application. If the court grants you leave, you can apply for a Child Arrangements Order which will provide you with a legal basis for spending time with your grandchildren. There would be at least 1 court hearing following an application for a Child Arrangements Order being made. You would also likely need to prepare written evidence by way of a statement. Where the parents of the child raise objections about contact, you may also have to attend a contested final hearing. During that hearing, you will need to convince the court that you have an ongoing and meaningful connection with your grandchild that benefits them.
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.