National Grandparents Day falls on Sunday 6 October this year, highlighting the fact that sadly, up to a million grandparents lose contact with their grandchildren every year, mostly due to family breakdowns – and whilst most people expect grandparents to have the legal rights to see their grandchildren, those rights are in fact limited.
Grandparents bring so many important qualities to a relationship, the value of which should not be underestimated. However, grandparents’ rights are often over-looked when a relationship ends, leaving them to face the heartbreak of losing contact with their loved ones.
Parliament has been asked on a number of occasions to review and amend the law which requires grandparents to seek the Court’s permission before they can pursue an application and whilst this was debated in May 2018, changes are still yet to be made. Therefore – grandparents do not have an automatic right to see their grandchildren. If an agreement cannot be reached with the parent, they may have to consider an application to Court for permission to pursue an application for an Order that provides for the grandchildren to spend time or otherwise have contact with them.
Court proceedings are lengthy and often expensive. Legal Aid is no longer available for these types of cases and grandparents may struggle to meet the costs of representation. We would suggest that applications to Court are considered only as a last resort. Both grandparents and parents must do all they can to resolve the dispute through negotiation by opening up the channels of communication. If the adults are unable to resolve their differences, then consideration should be given to other means of alternative dispute resolution.
Mediation services can assist the adults in airing their differences in a safe environment, enabling the issues to be identified and discussions to then take place with a view to achieving a resolution for the benefit of the whole family.
If an agreement cannot be reached, consideration may need to be given to an application to Court for a Contact Order determining when the child is to spend time with the grandparents.
The Court will always consider all the child’s circumstances first and must only make an Order where they consider it better for the child than making no Order at all.
However, the Courts will look at granting permission for grandparents to apply for a Contact Order, considering the following:
- the grandparent’s connection with the child
- the nature of the application for contact
- whether the application could be potentially harmful to the child’s well-being
If one, or both parents raise objections, it is likely you will have to have to attend a full hearing in which both parties can put forward their evidence – you will need to persuade the Court that you have a meaningful and on-going relationship with your grandchildren, which significantly benefits their lives – therefore it is imperative that excellent legal advice is sought.
For example, they might have to weigh up whether your continuing contact with the child might have a negative impact on the rest of the family relationships; again, it is only in extreme circumstance that a Court will refuse a Contact Order.
For further information regarding family and children law, contact our specialists on 01792 468684 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.