If your son or daughter is going through a divorce it can be extremely difficult. But you may also be worried that your contact as a grandparent will be restricted.
We understand that Grandparents bring so many important qualities to a relationship with their grandchildren, 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.
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.
However, the courts will look at granting permission for grandparents to apply for a Contact Order, formally known as a Child Arrangements Order, considering the following:
- the grandparents 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 successful, you can apply for a Child Arrangements Order through the court to gain access to a relationship with your grandchildren.
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.
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.
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 Child Arrangements Order.
However, it is now compulsory in grandparents’ rights disputes for you to try and reach an agreement through mediation or other out of court negotiation, before applying to the court. In practice though, the family court does recognise the importance and benefits of children spending time with their grandparents – and there is a legal process you can follow to maintain a relationship with them.
The court will usually consider that it’s in your grandchild’s best interests to spend time with their extended family following a divorce or separation – unless there is good reason to prevent this. In most situations the time available for children to spend with their grandparents will be limited, but that does not mean that you can’t secure access to your grandchildren.
Contact us here for further guidance.