Good news for grandparents – children law reform proposed – to give grandparents a right to apply to Court to see their grandchild.
As a children lawyer I smile when I see a grandparent out with a grandchild. Why? I’m often asked for advice on grandparents ‘rights’ and it is therefore great to see children enjoying time with grandparents.
Sadly grandparent contact can stop if:
- There is a family fallout with a son or daughter-in-law;
- Parents separate and the parent who is looking after the children thinks that a grandparent took sides during the divorce or wants to exert control;
- The death of a child and the remarriage of a son or daughter in law;
- Family moving away or going to live abroad.
All too often when families split up grandparents can be forgotten, despite providing support such as:
- Continuity and stability in a grandchild’s changing post-divorce world;
- Childcare if both parents have to go back to work after a marriage breakdown;
- Family historian;
- A fun relative and role model.
The current grandparent and child law
Under current children law, grandparents don’t have an automatic right to apply to Court to see their grandchildren. Grandparents have to undergo a two stage process:
- Ask the Court for permission to be able to apply for a Court Child Arrangements Order.
- If they get permission then apply for an order setting out the time a grandchild should spend with their grandparents. The Order can provide for regular contact or just cover a one off special holiday or the grandchild being able to come to an 80th birthday party or golden wedding celebration.
When a grandparent asks for Court permission to apply for a Child Arrangements Order the Court considers:
- The connection with the child (how close are the grandparents to the grandchild);
- The nature of the application for contact;
- Whether the application might be potentially harmful to the child’s well-being in any way.
Although it is usual for a Court to give permission for a grandparent to apply for a Child Arrangements Order the two stage Court process can be off putting to a grandparent desperate to see their grandchild. Once permission to apply for the Court order is granted the Court then has to decide whether contact is in the child’s best interests.
The proposed grandparent reform
According to press reports the proposed change to the children law is to do away with the need for grandparents and other close family to have to ask the Court for permission to apply for a Court order to see their grandchild.
If the law is changed then grandparents will be treated in exactly the same way as a parent asking for a Court order to see their child. The reform has long been advocated by people’s campaigner and grandmother, Esther Rantzen. If the law is reformed it will make it easier for grandparents to see their grandchildren and grandparents will have the same ‘’rights’’ as parents to apply to stay in touch with their loved ones.
For advice about any aspect of children law or to talk about your legal options please give me a call on +44 (0) 1477 464020 or email me at [email protected]