Not seeing your grandchildren? Want to know your grandparents’ rights?
Whatever the reason you aren’t seeing your grandchildren you want to spend time with them. That’s understandable. Sadly, all too often, grandparents lose out on a relationship with their grandchildren when the family moves away or after parental separation or divorce. Our specialist children law solicitors, led by partners Louise Halford and Robin Charrot, have the legal expertise to help you.
As a grandparent, it can be hard to say what you want, especially when your child is caught up in relationship difficulties or is separating or divorcing. It can feel that your role as a grandparent has been forgotten and that you need a voice so you can get to see your grandchildren. At Evolve Family Law, our children law solicitors make sure you aren’t on your own and they are your voice to negotiate grandparent contact or, if necessary, apply for a contact order.
Why choose the grandparent law solicitors at Evolve Family Law?
Evolve Family Law partners, Louise Halford and Robin Charrot , are dedicated family and children law solicitors. They are passionate about the need for family lawyers to be experts in children law but also sensitive to the family situation so they can achieve solutions as quickly and as amicably as possible. With Evolve Family Law you receive friendly and approachable expert grandparent law legal advice delivered with empathy to the situation you are in.
Grandparent Rights to Contact With Grandchildren – Your Questions Answered
Grandparent and contact with grandchildren after parental separation or divorce
Our expert grandparent law and children law solicitors are often asked about grandparents’ legal rights to see their grandchildren. Contact between grandparent and child can stop if:
- Grandparents fall out with their son or daughter-in-law or their own child or
- Parents separate and the parent who is looking after the children thinks a grandparent has sided with their child during the divorce or
- A parent wants to punish their ex-partner by not allowing their partner’s parents to see their grandchildren.
A grandparent provides many levels of support to a child. When families separate grandparents can provide continuity and stability in a child’s changing world. Many grandparents provide child care and there is often no reason why they can’t continue to do so despite the breakdown of their son or daughter’s relationship. Grandparents aren’t just childcare providers; they have lots of different roles from family historians to role models. Spending time with grandparents is an integral part of a child’s experience that benefits a child in different ways to other family relationships.
If a family have taken the decision to separate it is normally a really stressful time and often something said, in the heat of the moment, can make the difference between whether or not grandparents have to fight to see their grandchildren. The best advice for grandparents is normally to not take sides and to say that no matter what the reasons for the relationship breakdown and the problems between the parents you as grandparents won’t take sides but will just be there for the family and grandchildren.
It is not always possible to not be seen to take sides, especially where a son or daughter has to return to live with you on a temporary basis while they come to terms with the relationship breakdown or wait for their financial settlement. Another complicating factor can be when grandparents have given or lent money to children to help them on the property ladder and so are intervening in the financial proceedings or are helping pay a grandchild’s school fees. It is important that both parents and grandparents ignore financial considerations when looking at the time spent by children with parents and extended family.
Grandparents and agreed contact with grandchildren
If grandparents can sort out contact with a grandchild it may be sensible to record the arrangements in the parent’s parenting plan. If grandparents can’t sort things out directly with their son or daughter in law or the relationship between the grandparents and their own child has broken down to such an extent that they can’t talk to one another comfortably then family mediation may help communication and resolve contact with grandchildren.
Grandparents legal rights to contact
Under the current law on grandparents’ legal rights, grandparents don’t have an automatic right to see their grandchildren despite many grandparents playing a pivotal role in the upbringing of their grandchildren and providing support and stability. This is because only parents or people with parental responsibility for a child can make an application for a Child Arrangements Order. This type of Court Order sets out the time a child should spend with parents, and in appropriate cases, with grandparents or other important extended family members such as adult siblings or half-siblings or uncles and aunts. The Order can provide for regular contact or just cover a special event such as the grandchildren being able to come to an eightieth birthday party or a golden wedding anniversary celebration.
Grandparents legal right to apply for a Contact Order
To apply for a contact or Child Arrangement Order a grandparent has to ask the Family Court for permission to apply for the Order. The Court will consider:
- The connection with the child (how close the grandparents are 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.
It is essential that grandparents get specialist grandparent law advice as well as support to make sure that they have explored alternatives to Court such as family mediation and if so, to make sure they successfully get permission to apply for an Order.
Grandparents applying to Court for permission to make a contact application
It is usual for a Court to give permission for a grandparent to apply for a Child Arrangement Order unless the grandparent is on good terms with their son or daughter and could see their grandchild whilst their son or daughter is seeing the children. This is because if the children’s parents have agreed to a roughly equal split of time at weekends and holidays then the Court may think that each set of grandparents should spend time with their grandchildren during their son or daughter’s parenting time. That doesn’t always work, for example, grandparents might want to continue to provide the mid-week child care they gave before the parents decided to split up or the parents may live many miles apart while grandparents live close to a son or daughter-in-law.
As no families circumstances are the same it is always sensible to get specialist advice on grandparents legal rights before applying for permission to apply for a Child Arrangements Order.
Whoever applies for a Child Arrangement Order the Court has to consider whether or not contact is in the child’s best interests. The Court has to follow the same welfare checklist, whether the application is by a parent, grandparent or other family members.
How does the Court make a decision about a grandparent contact with a grandchild?
When any family member is asking the Court to make a decision relating to a child’s upbringing and contact and any question relating to a child, the child’s welfare is the Court’s paramount consideration. The Court has regard to a set checklist of factors when making orders relating to a child. The Court will make a decision based on what a judge thinks is right for a child. That decision takes the control away from the family and leaves it in the hands of the Court. For that reason, families are encouraged to use family mediation first to see if they can reach a compromise and an agreement.
What is a typical Court case for contact with a grandchild?
There is no such thing as a typical court case as the Court decides on how each Court application is dealt with, including the number of court hearings, whether statements of evidence should be prepared and whether experts should write reports. No steps can generally be taken without the Court’s approval. Prior to being able to apply for a Court Order, most grandparents have to first try family mediation. If mediation isn’t suitable or families can’t reach an agreement the mediator will sign a form to say that mediation has been tried but hasn’t worked out. The Court can also ask families to go to mediation during the Court proceedings.
How Evolve can help resolve your grandparents’ legal rights
Taking early grandparent law advice on legal rights can help you understand your rights and options and the potential outcome of a Court application. Louise Halford is a specialist child and grandparent rights solicitor who has many years of city centre experience in helping grandparents gain contact with their grandchildren. Louise has a reputation for being approachable and going the extra mile for her clients.
Louise Halford works with a number of other specialists and therapists who help families (either individual struggling to come to terms with the loss of contact with a grandchild or the family, depending on individual needs and family circumstances). Louise can put you in touch with someone to help support either you or your family.