Grandparents play a major role in the life of a grandchild, with studies showing that having a strong relationship boosts development and provides a strong foundation for a healthy family structure. Even closer relationships between grandparents and grandchildren are becoming more commonplace as parents rely on childcare due to the spiraling costs of nurseries and after school activities.
Problems can arise for grandparents when there is a breakdown in a marriage or traditional family unit. Applications for access to grandchildren are increasingly coming from the side of fathers, where the parent is less likely to have custody of the child, and communication between parents and grandparents becomes fraught. In some cases, this can lead to grandparents finding that they have been denied access to their grandchildren
What are your rights, and what can you do if you find yourself in this position?
Grandparents do not have an automatic right in Law to see or contract their grandchildren, and overall their rights are limited. The positive news is that Family Courts recognise that Grandparents have a major role to play. Unless there are extenuating circumstances that would put the children at harm, it is very unlikely a court would deny access.
Do I need to apply to a court?
The short answer to this is not necessarily. There are two routes to access, one being an informal agreement between all parties which is conducted through mediation. The second option is making an application to apply for a Contact Order – a formal judgment made through the family courts.
Mediation is a great way to move forward in gaining access to your grandchildren as it provides an opportunity for all parties to talk and come to an agreement on the best course of action. Mediation is always the first port of call in this situation, and a court will always require that this process has been conducted before considering giving permission to apply for a Contact Order.
If mediation has been attempted but has failed, the next course of action is to apply to the family court for permission to apply for a Contact Order.
Grandparents do not have the right to make an application for a Contact Order as this is only available to people with parental responsibility such as parents, stepparents or guardians of the children. Whilst this limits options, the good news is that grandparents can apply for permission (also known as leave) to the court, allowing them to apply for a Contact Order. The courts would generally consider the following factors when giving permission:
- The relationship or connection with the child.
- The factors behind the application for contact with the child.
- The effect on the child’s wellbeing if contact was granted.
If there are no issues, and permission is granted, then the grandparent can apply to the court for a Contact Order for access.
Are you struggling to gain access to your grandchildren?
If you find yourself in this situation, the best course of action is to speak directly to a family solicitor. Our friendly team of experts will offer the right advice and support to ensure your interests are represented. Call our Team today on 0191 500 9337 or 01670 707338, alternatively, click the button below and we'll call you straight back.
What could go wrong?
If either one or both parents object, then this would go to a full court hearing, where all parties will be able to put forward evidence and views. The court will need to be persuaded that there is a strong relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, which is on-going and adds a positive benefit to their lives. Although at this point it is essential that you involve an experienced family solicitor, we recommend speaking to us from the outset to ensure you receive the right advice and support throughout all the stages of the process.