The relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren can be very special and one that most parents fully support. On occasions, however, access can be cut off or restricted, causing hurt and upset. In the first of a two-part series of articles, Dan Cooper, family law expert with Family Law Group in Milton Keynes, explains what rights grandparents have to see their grandchildren and the help available where access is denied. The second article will consider the options where grandparents would like their grandchildren to live with them.
What rights do grandparents have?
Unfortunately, grandparents have no automatic right to see their grandchildren. Access is dependent on the parents (or those with parental responsibility) agreeing to allow it. There are, however, circumstances in which you can apply to the family court for an order enabling you to spend time with your grandchildren where attempts to make voluntary arrangements have failed. This order is known as a Child Arrangements Order.
I’m nervous about going to court. Is there anything else I can do?
Most issues concerning grandchildren can be resolved amicably with the help of a family solicitor or collaborative lawyer, or by going to see a family law mediator. Our specially trained professionals are used to helping families work through their differences to come up with arrangements that work for everyone.
Before an application can be made to the court, you will in most cases have to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (also called a ‘MIAM’) to determine whether some form of dispute resolution procedure outside of court may be suitable in your case. This will not apply where there is evidence of abuse or violence.
If I need to go to court, what is the process?
If you need to go to court, the first thing you will need to do is find out whether you need the court’s permission, which will usually be the case unless your grandchildren have been living with you for a certain amount of time.
You will then need to present your case to the court and explain why you believe it is in the best interests of your grandchildren that they be allowed to see you.
There is a fee payable to make an application, although help with the cost of this may be available if you are on a low income or in receipt of certain benefits.
How likely is my application to succeed?
Whether your application succeeds will depend on the circumstances, taking account of things such as:
- What your grandchildren would like to happen, if they are old enough to express an opinion;
- Any characteristics or needs of your grandchildren which ought to be taken into account;
- The likely effect on your grandchildren of you suddenly becoming involved in their life, if you have not been so far, or of you suddenly dropping out of their life where an established relationship exists; and
- The views of the parents or anyone else with parental responsibility, or of the local authority where your grandchildren are currently in care.
The views of other professionals, such as social workers or a child psychologist, may also be considered.
For a confidential discussion about grandparents’ rights, please contact Dan Cooper on 01908 787900 or email email@example.com