Divorce law is changing in April 2022: No-fault divorce explained
On 06 April 2022, divorce law in England and Wales will change with the introduction of no-fault divorce and dissolution.Read more
Grandparents do not have an automatic right to see their grandchildren when the primary caregiving parent is not permitting contact. Grandparents do, however, have the right to ask the court for permission to apply to have contact.
Such an application should be considered but only as a last resort if the grandchild’s parent or parents do not agree and discussions have broken down. Mediation is always recommended and is often a requirement before the court will accept applications.
The first and best option to consider when parents separate, and conflicts arise in respect of contact with the children, is to try to reach agreement with the parents by way of mediation. Mediation is the process of negotiating to achieve an amicable agreement, overseen by a neutral third party (a mediator). This could enable all concerned to reach an agreement without going down the court route.
The first step is a MIAM (Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting). This will allow a mediator to assess if mediation is a suitable approach.
According to the Family Mediation Council, mediation is successful in achieving a complete or partial agreement in over 70% of cases. Here are some reasons it might not be successful:
In these scenarios, the mediator will provide a mediation certificate so that an application for a child arrangements order can be made.
Grandparents can make an application under the Children Act 1989 for contact. However, there is an additional step first as grandparents do not have an automatic right to apply to court.
In the first instance, permission is required from the court to make an application. Whilst there is no presumption that you will receive permission, permission is likely to be granted if you can satisfy the court that your application for contact has merit. This is likely if you have a blood relationship and an actual relationship with your grandchildren. It can be difficult to demonstrate an actual relationship if your grandchildren are very young or you have not seen them for some time, so it is important that you do not delay making your application. If you have a strong relationship with grandchildren and can evidence this, it is likely that the court will grant permission to make an application.
If permission is granted, the court will proceed to consider the application for contact. As with all applications relating to children, the court’s main consideration will be what is in the child’s best interests. Other considerations include:
If it is decided that contact is in the child’s best interests, the court will determine the appropriate level of contact.
Generally speaking, courts recognise the valuable contributions that grandparents make to children’s lives, but they must also take into consideration any adverse effect an application can have on children if there is hostility between the grandparents and the parent the children are living with.
The outcome of an application for a child arrangements Order can depend on the evidence presented to the court, so having experienced family lawyers to assist you can be hugely beneficial.
There are four other forms of court order that can apply in cases where the child’s living conditions are being challenged:
If a parent blocks you from seeing your grandchild after a court has ordered them to allow you to see them, they would be in contempt of court and potentially viewed as breaching the rights of the child.
To proceed with this, you would return to court and explain how the court order has been breached. Legal representation throughout this process is highly advised.
Our Family & Matrimonial team has over 30 years of experience helping grandparents regain contact with their grandchildren after a divorce or separation. For assistance with all aspects of child arrangements and separations, call us on 01332 226 174 or complete the form below.
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