Can we see our grandchildren please?
Grandparents in many families play an invaluable role as a source of love and support whilst also offering practical help including children. A divorce or relationship breakdown between a child’s parents can have a devastating effect on the close bond between a grandparent and grandchild.
Do I have any legal rights to see my grandchild?
Unfortunately there is no automatic legal right to contact with grandchildren though it is possible to apply to the Court to seek the right to pursue an Order to see them. Indeed recent government figures suggest that 7 grandparents a day seek an Order.
The first step
I would always advise that despite parental conflict, grandparents should try to work with both parents to sort amicable arrangements to remain involved in their grandchild’s life. This can be difficult when emotions are running high and there may be a temptation to “take sides” but, trying to remain neutral can reap future rewards. In my experience this is often successful as even a “wronged” spouse can see what their child gains from a strong relationship with both sets of grandparents at a time when the child may be experiencing divided loyalties towards their parents.
If that doesn’t work…?
The next best solution is mediation. This involves assessment by a trained mediator on suitability and then voluntary participation by parents and grandparents in sessions with the mediator to try to achieve an outcome which works for everyone involved. Any arrangements made are not legally binding but they often still work well. Mediation provides a safe and controlled environment in which to air frustrations and to seek practical solutions. An attempt to mediate is also a pre-requisite of Court proceedings.
If all else fails …
If other options fail then involvement of a solicitor may be sensible. An initial letter can be sent to the parent with care proposing ongoing contact with the child. That initial letter, worded in a non-confrontational way may be enough to get a reluctant parent to reconsider their stance.
Going to Court
If that fails, an application to the Court can be made. This is a two-stage process.
- First – seek “permission” through the Court to make an application for a Child Arrangement Order (which includes contact).
- Second – make a main application
Throughout everything, the Court’s paramount consideration is always the welfare of the child, decided by looking at all the circumstances of the case. This includes pre-existing involvement in the child’s life, the child’s wishes, if old enough to express them, and any risk of harm including emotional.
Generally speaking a grandparent who has been meaningfully involved in a child’s life before separation of the parents will overcome the first hurdle and be able to proceed with their application to see or communicate with their grandchild.
Always remember that it’s the right of the children to have the contact, not the right of the grandparent.