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.
Grandparents 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 separated.
Can grandparents apply for legal access to their grandchildren?
Only individuals who have parental responsibility, such as parents, step-parents or guardians can apply to the court for a Contact Order.
Despite having limited rights, as a grandparent, you can apply for leave (permission) to apply for a Contact Order. The courts will take the following factors into account:
- Your relationship with your grandchild
- The nature of your contact application
- Whether the application could be potentially harmful to the wellbeing of your grandchild.
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 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.
Our divorce, family and child law team is here to help.
Please call us to find out how we can help. We can talk on the phone or arrange a meeting where we can discuss your options and give you a clear idea of timeframes and costs.
Alternatively, please contact us online and we’ll call you back when it’s convenient for you.