Grandparents are increasingly playing a more significant role in the lives of their grandchildren; especially young children and their influence and assistance can be extremely beneficial. Due to changes in family circumstances, the role of grandparents has changed over the years from occasional babysitting to almost full-time care.
Despite the above, the current position is that there is no legislation making specific reference to grandparents. Grandparents have no superior role to other family members.
It is a sad fact that if parents separate or a family conflict arises grandparents are often excluded from seeing their grandchildren. Suddenly, in many cases through no fault of their own, grandparents can find themselves in a position where they are rarely able to see their grandchild, if at all. This can be a very distressing time for both grandparent and child, particularly if a loving bond is suddenly disrupted. Often both grandparents and the child can be left feeling hurt and confused as to why they are not allowed to see each other anymore.
However, all is not lost for a grandparent. There are recourses available for them, it may be mediation between the parents or it may be a case of seeking the Court’s assistance.
If a grandparent(s) wishes to seek the Court’s assistance, it is a two-stage process, firstly they will need to seek the Court’s permission to apply in the first instance and secondly, the court will need to consider the following:
- The nature of the proposed application to the Court, i.e. do the grandparents understand what they are asking the Court?
- What is their connection with the child(ren), do they have a strong connection for example?
- If there is any potential risk to disrupt the child’s life to such an extent that the child would suffer from any application made to the Court by the grandparents.
The only time grandparents do not need permission to apply to the Court, for a child to live with them is if that child has lived with them for at least one year immediately preceding the application.
What orders are available to grandparents?
The most likely order will be a Child Arrangements Order which will deal with where the child should live and how much they spend with the other members of the family. If it is decided that the child will live with the grandparents, then the grandparents will have Parental Responsibility for the duration of the order.
What should grandparents need to consider?
- Always wherever possible, try to resolve any issues within the family, try to keep lines of communication open and neutral;
- Do consider mediation (a court requirement in any event unless there are mitigating circumstances);
- Consider the costs, the process can be both financially and emotionally costly;
- Think about whether you will need to seek the Court’s permission to apply in the first instance. An incorrect application to the Court will result in your application being sent back and needless delay.
There’s a lot to consider, and it is always best to seek legal advice in order to be able to understand all options available. Sometimes an initial letter to the parents is all that is needed.
If you are a grandparent and are concerned about losing access to your grandchildren please contact our Family Team.
We offer a free, 15-minute, pre-bookable phone call with one of our experienced family law team. Alternatively, we offer a fixed £99 fee inc VAT for a 45-minute meeting with one of our highly experienced family team. If you would like some confidential advice about a family legal issue, contact us today to book a meeting.