This is an interesting and often misunderstood aspect of family law and this blog is intended to clarify the position a little.
Do grandparents have a legal right to see their grandchildren?
Grandparents do not have a legal “right” to see their grandchildren. This means that often when there is a separation between parents, the grandparents suffer as well when the time they spend with their grandchildren reduces or stops altogether.
There can be little doubt that grandparents play a very important role in their grandchildren’s lives and grandparents who find themselves in this difficult position should not feel disheartened as there are options available to them.
So, what can grandparents do if they are prevented from seeing their grandchildren?
It is open to them to make an application to Court. As grandparents will not normally have parental responsibility for their grandchildren (as this is usually held by the parents of the children only), they must first seek permission from the Court to be able to apply for a Child Arrangements Order.
Usually permission will be granted without the need for a Court hearing on the issue.
What happens next if permission is granted?
If permission is granted to the grandparents, they will be able to continue with an application for a Child Arrangements Order with the aim to obtain a Court Order setting out the time and dates when they can spend time with their grandchildren. If either or both parents object to the grandparents spending time with their grandchildren or they object to the proposed dates and times for this contact, then the Court may need to hear evidence from all parties on the issue.
When considering the evidence from all parties, the Court will consider the grandparents’ connection with the child(ren), the nature of the application they intend to make (i.e. usually to spend time with the grandchildren) and whether or not an Order could be harmful to the child(ren)’s well-being.
Is Court the only option?
Often it is not necessary for grandparents to pursue the matter through the Courts as, in many cases, it is possible to agree a contact routine with the parents directly or with the assistance of solicitors.
It may also be appropriate for parties to consider an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method such as mediation where issues such as this can be discussed and, hopefully, agreed amicably. Indeed, grandparents should be aware that no application can be made to Court until they have attended (at least) a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) with a mediator.
If you would like to discuss this issue or any other family related matter, then please contact our Family team to make an appointment.
Chalfont St Giles: 01494 870075 | Great Missenden: 01494 923923 | Stone: 01296 747151