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Grandparents Rights

Grandparents Rights in Family Law in England and Wales
Grandparents Rights in Family Law in England and Wales
Grandparents Rights in Family Law in England and Wales

Do I have automatic rights for my grandchild's custody?


It is a common assumption that due to a direct relation, grandparents would have automatic rights over their grandchildren. Unfortunately, they do not.


However, under the 1989 Children's Act, you may apply for these rights – if, and only if, the courts permit you. Yes, you need to apply for Permission to apply!


Remember – even though you may not have automatic rights while making decisions, the court will consider the blood relations between you and your grandchild.


We advise that you seek legal advice when looking for permission to apply for care of your grandchild, or for contact with your grandchild(ren).

There was a time the Child Arrangement Orders were called Child Custody, however they are now called Child Arrangement Orders, and sadly Grandparents do not automatically qualify to automatically for Child Arrangement Orders. If you need help, please get in touch with us on

Legal orders that could come into play when seeking these rights include:


  • Child Arrangement Order - The courts can decide whether the child will change residence, or remain in their current residence.

  • Special Guardianship Order -The courts have the ability to assign someone as 'Special Guardian' of the child until they turn 18.

  • Kinship foster care - When someone legally and officially becomes a foster carer for the child (ren)

The parent/carer of my child won’t facilitate contact, what should I do?


If the grandparents have applied for and have been granted a Child Arrangement Order allowing the Grandparent(s) to have contact with the grandchild(ren) it is expected that the parents/carer in question will facilitate that contact. However, if the Order of the Court was breached/broken, the remedies may include an Enforcement Application. 


The charges for breaking contact orders vary, as court systems are complex and often lengthy.  Some may include the imposition of parenting courses, unpaid work. In extreme cases, parents can be imprisoned for disobeying such orders. 


Often, in time of divorce, grandparents are seen as the figurehead to maintain some semblance of stability in the child's life. Involvement with your grandchild(ren) may make a difference to the contact you are granted with them


 If either one or even both parents are refusing contact with your grandchild(ren), you will have to show to the court why your presence will be beneficial for the child(ren).

  • Prove that your grandchild misses you and that you miss them

  • Display the practical, and emotional support you could offer in the care of the child(ren)

  • Explain that a child's grandparents contribute significantly to their identity.

  • Remember that it is very likely that the grandchild(ren) will be consulted if you are denied contact with them – if the outcome of this is positive it will work hugely in your favour


If negotiations through informal means are not fruitful, you may be able to request attending the parents in mediation. Mediation is when an independent worker approved by the court will assist parties in reaching an agreement regarding the care of the child(ren)


If none of the above options succeeds, you may submit a court application seeking leave to apply to see your grandchild. Going to court should always be the endmost resort as it takes an emotional toll on families, can worsen relationships and costs money. However, sometimes this is the only way to regain contact with your grandchild(ren). Though grandparents have not yet been enshrined automatic legal rights, in the last few years, the court has placed the onus of maintaining the child's positive familial relationships on the parents. The court will take into account a parents reluctance and refusal to do so.

In the case of false accusations, grandparents can often become witnesses and be called to the court to give evidence. The courts will have fact-finding hearings in which they make final decisions on whether an allegation is true or not.


My grandchild(ren)’s parent has passed away, what next?


In the painful situation of the death of the child(ren) 's parents, the child(ren) do not routinely go to the grandparents. A guardian must be nominated in the parents' wills to avoid any confusion and ensure that the child is with the correct carer.


If a grandparent is nominated as the legal guardian of a child in the event of the parents' death, they would be presumed that they would take on the child. If there is no guardian nominated, the immediate family will plan arrangements. Courts would resolve any guardianship disputes.

The court's priority is the wellbeing of the child, so it is probable that they will be placing the child(ren) with the grandparents - mainly if the alternative is foster care.


My grandchild(ren) are in care, how do I get contact?


If the grandchild is taken into care, Local Authorities will encourage familial contact with the child, until and unless this goes against the welfare of the child. You must be in touch with the Children's Service department from an early stage – to ensure that they are aware that you wish to remain in communication with your grandchild. In this instance, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights will be hugely in your favour.

If you had parental responsibility prior to your grandchild being taken into care, the local authority is required to permit contact, unless they obtain an order stating otherwise.

It is indispensable that you remain in contact with your child's foster carer, and work with them to create plans for communication and contact with your grandchild(ren).

We at   have rich experience in assisting Grandparents to take matters to court to have contact with their grandchild (ren) , and we are reachable on

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