Many grandparents play an active role in their grandchildren’s lives. Yet there are times when family relationships deteriorate to such an extent that one (or both) parents stop grandparents from spending time with their grandchildren. This is particularly common when the parents separate or divorce, but can also happen after family disputes and even a death.
Grandparents do not have parental responsibility, so there is no legal right for a grandparent to see their grandchildren. Unless there’s a Court order in place, it is up to the parents to decide who their children see.
What can I do if I’m stopped from seeing my grandchildren?
If a dispute arises and you are stopped from seeing your grandchildren, the first thing to try is to speak to the parent with whom the grandchildren live and try to reach an agreement with them.
If those conversations do not go well, mediation would be the next best route to try. Mediation could take place with a professional mediator facilitating discussions between you and the parent with whom the children live or by using another family member to act as a mediator. Find out more about mediation here https://www.se-law.co.uk/personal/family/family-mediation/
Should neither of these initial stages work then you can apply to court. You first of all need to apply for permission to make a court application as, unfortunately, grandparents do not have the same automatic right to make a court application straight away in the same way that parents do.
The courts in England and Wales recognise the importance of the role that grandparents play in their grandchildren’s’ lives so they are likely to grant permission to allow you to apply to court.
What do the courts take into account?
When applying for permission, the Court will consider the relationship between you and your grandchildren, acknowledging the important role grandparents can play in a child’s life.
The Court will also consider:
- Why the application has been made
- Reasons why contact has stopped
- What impact an order would have on the children and family
- Whether the children are wanting contact with their grandparent (this will be dependent upon the children’s age)
The welfare of the child is the Court’s primary concern. Within any application, it will have to be demonstrated that an order would be beneficial for the children, and in their best interests to spend time with their grandparents.
If you are successful in obtaining permission to apply to court, then you can apply for a Child Arrangements Order for your grandchildren to spend time with you.
If one or both parents raise an objection to your application, the court will need to list the matter for a contested hearing where all parties can put forward their evidence. At this point it is important to seek legal advice to help persuade the court that you have a meaningful relationship with your grandchildren, which it is in their best interests to continue.
After hearing evidence, the court will decide what is in the children’s best interests. They will make an order when they consider it is better for the children to do so, rather than make no order at all.
If this resonates with you and need legal guidance or mediation, please do get in touch.