Do grandparents have legal rights to see their grandchildren?
Updated: Feb 17
Grandparents play a key role in the upbringing of their grandchildren. An often unrecognised consequence of family breakdown can be children losing or being kept from their grandparents.
The Children Act 1989 gave contact powers to step-parents, but not grandparents.
After a break-up, it has been estimated that almost half of grandparents do not see their grandchildren, with those who have sons involved in a break-up faring the worst.
Only people with parental responsibility, for example, parents, step-parents or guardians can make an application to seek a contact order. It is unfair and somewhat unbelievable that grandparents do not have an automatic right to contact with their grandchildren.
However, although grandparents do not have an automatic legal right to see their grandchildren, parents are able to decide legally who their children see. It is for this reason, it is better to come to an agreement amicably, but this may not always be possible, and it may be the case that one parent or both parents have objections to the grandparents having contact.
What are grandparents options if denied contact?
If there has been a particularly bad separation, careful steps are needed to move forward, however frustrating this may be. Try to 'keep the peace' when you make contact otherwise the parents are likely to 'dig their heels in' further. Remember this about being able to spend time with your grandchildren, not apportioning blame.
Show them that you miss your grandchildren and that they will more likely than not be missing spending time with you.
Suggest that the child is asked on how they feel about seeing their grandparents
Remind them of the importance of grandparents in children's understanding of their sense of identity.
Stress the importance of genetic connections and denying them contact could be upsetting for the children.
Can grandparents apply to the Court for access?
If an agreement cannot be reached there is provision for grandparents to make an application for an order in respect of time they spend with their grandchildren. Be aware that involving the Court can be further disruptive to the family dynamic cause distress on all involved and can cause relations to deteriorate further.
Before an application to the Court is made, any grandparents will have to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, (MIAM) unless there is an exemption.
The Family Court does recognise the invaluable role that grandparents have in their grandchildren's lives, and it is unusual that the court would refuse a grandparent access to their grandchildren.
Grandparents can apply for permission to apply for a Contact Order and the courts will consider the connection and blood tie, as this will be an important factor when the court comes to consider what is in the child's best interests.
If the grandparents are successful in their application they can then apply for a Contact Order, they must then make an official application for a Contact Order.
Please see the below link from a previous blog, that is a useful 'how-to' guide' for filling an application out:
What happens at the hearing?
Once that application has been filed, the parents will have a right to object to your contact proposal, and if they do so, you will need to prepare yourself for a full hearing.
During this hearing, each side will put forward evidence for their case. Do remember that the focus is on the welfare of the children, not your feeling, wishes and wants. The court will always consider all of the children's circumstances.
It is only in the extreme circumstance that a court will refuse access to grandchildren but if the court decides to reject a grandparents application, please do consider that this will probably put the grandparents back to minus square one with the parents.
If a Contact Order is granted, this enforces the to allow the grandparent to have contact with their grandchildren.
What can grandparent's do whilst awaiting the outcome?
Your patience will be heavily tested during this time. Collect gifts for the grandchildren and keep them somewhere safe until you can see them again. You can show them to your grandchildren when contact is restored and show your grandchildren that you still thought about them, even when you didn’t see them.
It is hoped that some day there will be a landmark case that will change the landscape of how the alienation of children from their grandparents is dealt with.
For the time being, the only course of actions is a slow and soft pacified approach with feelings reigned in and fingers crossed.
This blog article should not be taken as Legal Advice.
If you need help with Family Law Matters / Children Act Matters, please feel free to contact us on our website at; Help@inCourt.co.uk or call us on; 07375757510