Up to 300,000 children in the UK are being raised by their grandparents, other family members or friends.
However, after a couple divorce or separate, grandparents’ contact with their grandchildren may be reduced or even denied completely, causing them great heartbreak.
Grandparents who face this situation are often unsure about what to do and what remedy they may have through the courts.
The best way to resolve things is through good communication. Talking should be the first step towards building bridges and working out how you can see your grandchildren.
It is important that you avoid being drawn into the conflict, and you must ensure that, whatever the argument, your grandchildren’s well-being is prioritised.
By approaching the situation in this way, you will be doing what you can to help ensure your grandchildren are not damaged by the impact of long-term family conflict. You might also offer practical help, such as taking the children to or from school, or on outings.
Sometimes, professional help is needed. Mediation can be a way forward, as families are helped to find their own solution to their disputes rather than having one imposed by a court, which can reduce stress and save time and money.
If mediation fails, a grandparent may have no alternative but to apply to the court for contact with their grandchildren. Grandparents do not have an automatic right to apply for a court order; they will first need the court’s permission. The court will look at their connection to the children, the nature of the application for contact, and whether it might be potentially harmful to the children’s well-being. Once the grandparents obtain permission, they can apply for a child arrangement order, which will determine where a child lives and when they are to spend time with each parent, grandparents and other relatives. A grandparent who can demonstrate a genuine attachment to
their grandchildren and a wish to continue contact is likely to be granted permission to apply for a child arrangement order.
If either or both parents raise objections, the grandparent is likely to have to attend a full hearing.
It is essential that they obtain good legal advice at this stage – they will need to persuade the court that their relationship with their grandchildren significantly benefits the youngsters’ lives.
The Child Arrangements Programme applies where a dispute arises from separated parents and/or families. It is designed to help families reach safe and child-focused agreements. The court has vast discretion and can include creative solutions enabling grandparents and grandchildren to remain in touch, even from a long distance and across international borders.
If a local authority is involved, or a child has been accommodated with foster carers, grandparents will often wish to put themselves forward as their main carers. At that point, it may be relevant to look at the issue of special guardianship orders, which provide even greater security to a grandparent. Local authorities are obliged to provide support, which may include financial assistance.
These are difficult and complex issues, and it is vital that legal advice is sought early on to ensure that the correct approach is made to the parents and to the local authority, which may have parental responsibility for the children if care proceedings have been issued.
Bromleys has specialist family lawyers who can help guide you through the process to ensure that you maintain contact with your grandchildren and provide them with stability at a time when they may be confused, worried and unhappy about their future.
For further advice or information regarding your grandchildren, please contact:
If a local authority is involved, contact a member of our child care team.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.