Grandparents who find themselves unable to see their grandchildren when their children get divorced or separated may wonder how they can re-establish contact. In this article we explore their options.
Do grandparents have an automatic legal right to see their grandchildren?
In short, the answer is no, grandparents do not have an automatic legal right to see and have contact with their grandchildren. It is always best to try to seek agreement with the parents or guardians of the grandchildren through informal discussions or mediation. However, if this is not possible, grandparents can seek the Court’s permission to make an application for a Child Arrangements Order for contact.
The law stresses that grandparents must seek permission from the Court to apply for a Child Arrangements Order for contact. A two step process is therefore required as a grandparent must first apply to the Court for permission to apply for an order and, once approved, apply for a Child Arrangements Order for contact.
When determining the grandparent’s application for permission, the Court will consider the applicant’s connection to the child, the type of application for contact and whether the application might be potentially harmful to the child’s wellbeing.
Once permission has been granted, the Court will set a date for a hearing and everyone with parental responsibility will receive an invitation to attend.
How will the Court judge a grandparent’s application?
The Court will consider a grandparent’s application for contact in relation to the welfare of the child or children involved. A CAFCASS Welfare Officer may be appointed to consider the position. Their role is to talk to all parties involved and prepare a report for the Court which sets out recommendations on how to move forward. The Courts are increasingly aware that many grandparents play a significant role in their grandchildren’s lives, and it is rare that a Court would refuse a grandparent contact with their grandchildren.
If either or both of the child’s parents raise objections in response to the grandparent’s application, a full hearing may be required which will necessitate the parties’ attendance so they can put forward their position.
Importantly the Court will always take into account the primary consideration of whether an Order would be in the best interests of the child. If contact is approved, a decision will be made on how practical arrangements can be put in place to ensure the child maintains their relationship with their grandparents. This can be through direct face-to-face contact or via indirect forms of contact such as by telephone and/or letters.
How can Tozers help grandparents in gaining contact with their grandchildren?
The Family Team at Tozers are experts in supporting grandparents through the process of applying for a Child Arrangements Order. They are here to listen, understand and guide you through the legal process.
For further information about any part of this article, or to talk to one of our dedicated Family Team, visit their hub page.
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