Do Grandparents Have a Right to Contact With Their Grandchildren?
It can be incredibly difficult for grandparents when couples divorce. They may not see their grandchildren as often as they did before, or they may be prevented from seeing them at all.
Our solicitors are often approached by grandparents seeking advice on what they can do to spend more of their precious time with their grandchildren. Unfortunately, grandparents do not have an automatic right to contact with grandchildren, however there are certain steps we can take to help. Family courts recognise the important role that grandparents play in a child’s life and it is incredibly rare that a court would refuse a grandparent access without clear evidence of violence or abuse.
During separation or divorce, or even where a relationship has broken down between generations, emotions can get in the way of reaching a practical solution. We would always recommend attempting to come to some kind of agreement outside of the courtroom where possible, as this gives you the best chance of preserving a positive relationship with the other parties involved.
If you are unable to agree to contact arrangements with the parents of your grandchild, you may benefit from the assistance of a mediator. Mediation provides the opportunity for all parties to put their point forward with a view to reaching a mutually agreeable solution.
Before you can proceed with court action, you must attempt to resolve the situation with the assistance of an experienced mediator. The mediator will guide you through the process and provide practical support to help structure discussions.
If you are not successful in reaching an agreement through mediation, or where contact has broken down completely, you will need to make an application to the court. As discussed earlier, there is no right in law for grandparents to have contact with their grandchildren, you will need the court to make a Contact Order to secure access.
Only those with parental responsibility for a child can apply directly, this includes parents, step-parents or guardians. When a grandparent wishes to apply to the court for a Contact Order, they must first apply for permission to make an application. When making the decision whether to grant leave to make an application for a Contact Order, the courts will take into consideration:
- Your connection with the child
- The nature of your application for contact with the child
- Whether granting the application could be harmful to the child in any way
If after considering your application the court grants you leave, you can apply through the court for a Contact Order. A Contact Order will allow you to gain access to your grandchildren and provide you with a legal basis for contact.
In some cases, one or both parents of the child may raise objections about contact, in which case you may have to attend a full hearing. At a Contact Order hearing, both parties will put forward evidence in relation to whether or not the Contact Order should be granted. At this stage, it is essential to have the advice of an experienced legal team. You will need to convince the court that you have a meaningful, ongoing connection with your grandchild that provides a benefit to their lives.
The court will always consider all the child’s circumstances and must only make an order where they consider it better for the child than making no order at all.
We are a team of specialist international family lawyers, and we regularly deal with cases that involve temporary or permanent removal of a child from the UK. This could be in cases where a parent wants to take their child back to their home country but the other parent might not be in agreement and so a court application might become necessary. These circumstances become more complicated for grandparents, because it may be challenging for them to visit a child in another country or to utilise technology to maintain contact. These cases are often sensitive and difficult but we can discuss all options available to you to give you the best possible chance to maintain contact with your grandchild.
Our experienced children and contact dispute lawyers are ready to help you make legal arrangements for your grandchildren. We regularly deal with complex cases with an international element. Speak to a member of our specialist family law team today by calling 0330 107 0107.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.
Published by: Iwona Durlak
IMD Solicitors LLP