Grandparents’ Day, also known as National Grandparents’ Day, will be celebrated this year on Sunday 01 October 2023. It is a holiday to celebrate the bonds between grandparents and their grandchildren.
Grandparents are often an integral part to the day to day running of a family, whether that be providing help/childcare or assisting in everyday activities. It is also recognised in the UK that grandparents are playing an increasing role in their grandchildren’s lives and those with a high level of grandparental involvement have fewer emotional and behavioural issues. There is also a strong association between children that had their grandparents involved in their life with reduced adjustment difficulties.
When a relationship breaks down, the contact between grandparents and grandchildren may come to an end. This can leave grandparents feeling particularly upset and wondering how they can re-establish a relationship with their grandchildren.
Legal Rights for Grandparents
Grandparents do not have automatic legal rights in respect of their grandchildren; however, they can seek the Court’s permission to make an application for a Child Arrangements Order, which is a legally binding Order by a Court that regulates whom a child should live with, and the amount of time they should spend with their parents or other family members.
It is advisable that grandparents try to make contact with their grandchildren’s parent(s) or guardian(s) to discuss the possibility of regular contact before making an application. This can take place through informal discussions or mediation. If this proves unsuccessful, grandparents can seek the Court’s permission to make an application.
There is a 2-stage process when applying for a Child Arrangements Order. Firstly, the grandparents must apply for permission to apply for an Order and, if once approved, will then be able to proceed with applying for a Child Arrangements Order. When determining an application for permission, the Court will consider the grandparents connection to the child, the type of application for contact, and whether the application might be potentially harmful to a child’s wellbeing. Once permission has been granted, the Court will set a date for the hearing and everyone with parental responsibility will receive an invitation to attend.
How the Court judge an application
Grandparents’ application will be judged in relation to the welfare of the child, or the children involved. Grandparents do not have any automatic rights, but the Courts are increasingly aware that many grandparents have a significant and meaningful role in their grandchildren’s lives. It is rare that a Court would refuse grandparents contact with their grandchildren.
What if the grandchildren’s parents object?
If either or both parents raise any objections in response to the grandparent’s application, a full hearing may be required, which will necessitate the party’s attendance so that they can put forward their respective positions.
The Court’s paramount consideration will always be whether an Order would be in the best interests of a child. If a Child Arrangements Order is made and a grandparent is permitted to have contact with their grandchild, then practical arrangements will be set out to ensure that the child(ren) maintain their relationship with their grandparents. This can be through direct face to face contact or indirect contact such as telephone and/or letters.
How can Tozers help?
Tozers' Family Team are experts in supporting grandparents in making applications to the Family Court for Child Arrangements Orders. They are here to listen, understand and guide you through the legal process, which includes helping you secure time with your grandchildren, understanding your legal rights, and advising you about the legal process and what options may be available to you.
If you are a grandparent and have any queries in relation to this matter, or similar, then please do not hesitate to contact our experienced Private Family Team on 01392 207020.