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Grandparents' Legal Rights

As experienced Grandparents' Rights Solicitors, we understand that grandparents often play a pivotal role in the lives of their grandchildren. These special relationships may come under pressure to change following the divorce or separation of the child's parents, so it is important to be aware of grandparents' legal rights.

Divorce and grandparents’ rights can be complex, and so understanding when to seek legal advice during the stages of divorce is essential in order to achieve the best possible solution.

What Legal Rights Do Grandparents Have?

As grandparents are not automatically granted parental responsibility, they are not given legal rights to see their grandchildren.

Grandparents’ legal rights have been eroded over the years, but it is still recognised that, where possible, children should have the opportunity to see their extended family members after their parents have divorced or separated.

Can a Parent Deny a Grandparent Visitation?

As grandparents have no legal rights over their grandchildren, it is the decision of the parents to decide if and when a grandparent can see their grandchildren.

There are a number of reasons why a parent may deny a grandparent access rights to their grandchildren, and this can be a result of the grandparent’s actions. For example:

  • They undermine parental authority.
  • The grandparent fails to follow the parents’ rules.
  • Their behaviour threatens the well-being and safety of the grandchild.
  • There are disagreements between the parents and the grandparents.

Or, it can be as a result of the parent/s. For example:

  • The parents separate or divorce.
  • A parent dies.
  • A parent is incarcerated.
  • A parent loses the right to see their child.
  • A parent moves themselves and their children a long distance away or abroad.

What To Do When You Are Not Allowed to See Your Grandchildren

As grandparents’ rights solicitors, we recognise that resolving a dispute without Court intervention is the best option in order to agree upon grandparents’ access rights. Not only can this be the quickest way to resolve a dispute, but it can save costly expenses and lessen the negative impact on future relationships. However, relationships have often become strained at this point, and it can prove difficult to make an agreement without third-party intervention.


Before any legal action can be taken, both parties must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, otherwise known as ‘MIAM’. The mediator will explain the mediation process to you and let you know if another form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is more appropriate for your situation. ADR is a legal requirement unless you are exempt, such as in cases of domestic violence. During mediation, the mediator will sit with both parties to aid the discussion in order to reach a mutual agreement.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative law is another form of ADR that can help reach agreements over grandparents’ access rights before taking the dispute to Court. A collaboratively trained lawyer is appointed by both parties and a meeting is arranged for the respective lawyers and parties to work together to find a resolution. The main difference between mediation and collaborative law is that your appointed collaboratively trained lawyers can offer legal advice throughout the discussions and will be present during the entire process.

Collaborative law can be a good option if there has been no resolution over grandparents’ access rights through their own means or through mediation. It is also not set out around a defined timetable. Meetings can be flexible and fit both parties’ schedules. What’s more, collaborative law is often quicker and less expensive than the time and costs incurred taking the dispute to Court.

Can You Go to Court for Access to Grandchildren?

If mediation is unsuccessful, a grandparent can then apply for permission to apply for a Contact Order.

Only individuals who have parental responsibility, such as parents, step-parents or guardians, can apply to the Court for a Contact Order. However, despite having limited rights, as a grandparent, you can apply for leave (permission) to make a formal application for a Contact Order.

Only individuals who have parental responsibility, such as parents, step-parents or guardians, can apply to the Court for a Contact Order. However, despite having limited rights, as a grandparent, you can apply for leave (permission) to make a formal application for a Contact Order.

The Courts will take the following factors into account:

  • Your relationship with your grandchild.
  • The nature of your contact application.
  • Reasons for why contact may have been stopped by one or both of the parents.
  • Whether the application could be potentially harmful to the well-being of your grandchild.

A grandparents’ right solicitor can help you understand whether a contact order will be the most appropriate, or whether another form of grandparents’ legal rights will be the best option. At Newtons Solicitors, our team of specialists can help with an application for a Contact Order, as well as:

  • Child Arrangement Orders when a parent does not have legal access to their child or children – The Court will determine when and where the grandparents will see their grandchildren.
  • Special Guardianship Order – A Court can appoint grandparents as ‘Special Guardians’ until a grandchild turns 18, if they believe it to be in the best interests of the grandchild.
  • Adoption – The Court will appoint the grandparent as the legal guardian, severing ties with the grandchild’s parents and giving them no legal rights to their child.

What Happens Once a Grandparent Has Been Granted Permission to Apply for a Contact Order?

Once you have been granted leave, your contact application will be considered. Often, this will involve the appointment of an officer from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) to assess any welfare issues that need to be considered. They will then compile a report to assist the court in reaching a decision.

What Happens if One or Both Parents Object to a Grandparent’s Application for a Contact Order?

If one or both parents object to the CAFCASS report, there will be a full hearing that affords both sides an opportunity to present their evidence. The Court will make a decision based on what they consider to be in the best interests of your grandchild.

At this stage, it is important that you seek independent legal advice from grandparents’ right solicitors regarding grandparent access rights and any other grandparents’ legal rights. This is because you will need to convince the Court that you have a meaningful relationship with your grandchild, which significantly benefits their lives.

What if Either Parent Fails to Comply with a Contact Order?

A Court will resist any attempt to oppose its decision to grant you contact with your grandchild.

The enforcement powers vested in the Court make it very difficult for parents to ignore Contact Orders. Therefore, they represent an effective way of ensuring that you can maintain a relationship with your grandchild.

Why Choose Newtons Solicitors?

Our highly specialised team of family law and grandparents’ right solicitors strive to achieve the best possible solutions for you while keeping your grandchildren’s welfare at the heart of the process.

We understand the time-sensitive and emotive nature of seeking grandparents’ access rights, and so we endeavour to put ourselves in your position to understand your circumstances fully.

At Newtons Solicitors, we offer clear explanations of fees to avoid nasty surprises along the way. We will do everything we can to find the best solution for you that is within your budget and time-scale.

If you would like to discuss your grandparent access rights, our experienced grandparents’ rights solicitors are here to talk you through any issues relating to your legal rights as well as any other family law or child law queries you may have. Contact us today for a consultation.

Explore Newtons Solicitors’ news and opinions for more information, including step-parent legal rights after divorce.

Our divorce, family and child law team is here to help.

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