Grandparents play an important role in children’s lives and research has shown that they can have a positive impact, particularly on adolescents and when families are going through difficult times. Their involvement is strongly associated with reduced adjustment difficulties in all family types, but particularly so amongst adolescences from divorced or separated families.
When a parental relationship comes to an end, it often has far reaching implications in respect of the child/ren’s ongoing relationship and access to their wider family, such as grandparents. It is a sad reality that grandparents do not have an automatic right to contact with their grandchildren. However, family courts do recognise the often invaluable role that grandparents have to play in their grandchildrens lives and it is very rare that the court would refuse a grandparent access to grandchildren unless there is a safeguarding issue that would prevent that access taking place and/or unless there are practical/logistical reasons that would mean any contact would not be in the child/ren’s best interests (having regard to the welfare checklist in s.1(2) of the children act 1989).
Can I make an application to the court?
Only people with parental responsibility, for example parents, step-parents or guardians can make an application for a Contact Order (see s.10(4) and (5) of the children act 1989 for full details). Grandparents are not automatically entitled to apply for a child arrangements order, and they must obtain the permission of the court (“known as applying for leave”).
When deciding whether the grandparents should be given permission, the court will consider (see s.10 (8)-(10) of the children act 1989 for full considerations):-
- The nature of the proposed application that the grandparent wishes to make
- Their connection with the child
- Whether the application might be potentially harmful to the child’s well-being in any way.
If one or both parents raise objections, there is likely to be a full court hearing where all the parties can put forward their evidence. At that stage, it is extremely beneficial to have legal advice to assist with preparing the case, to demonstrate to the court that the applicant grandparents do have meaningful and ongoing relationships with their grandchildren, which significantly benefits their lives.
If you are a grandparent and would like to know more about your options or you are not happy with current arrangements regarding your grandchildren, please do not hesitate to contact our Family team on 020 3601 5051.