Grandparents often play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren but there are a number of situations where issues may arise impacting their relationship with their grandchildren, such as:-

  • Where the parents live together with the children but don’t want the grandparents having contact
  • Where parents have separated, and a grandparent is being prevented from having contact
  • Where the children are subject to care proceedings.
  • Where children lived with the grandparents but have returned to the parent’s care.
  • a grandparent may have safeguarding concerns about a parent and be seeking for the grandchildren to live with them either as a temporary measure or long term.
  • A parent may have died.

Relationships with extended family members are often important to a child’s sense of identity but as a grandparent you do not have any automatic rights to spend time with your grand, or to seek for them to live with you, but there are a number of options that can be considered.

Help- I want Contact

If the child remains living with their parent/ parents the first step would be to attempt to agree an informal arrangement with the parent/ parents. This would both avoid conflict and save everyone a significant amount of stress and cost.

It may be tempting to try to contact the child directly without the parent’s consent but this would be risky and potentially expose the child to adult issues, which is not in their best interests.

You can try to explain to the parents that you believe the child is missing you and that you miss them. It may be that you can agree to an activity-based arrangement in the community at a starting point potentially with the parents present to rebuild the relationship and trust between you and them.

If the parents are reluctant to engage directly with you then you could attempt to go through a third party or instruct a solicitor to write to them setting out your intentions and that you have the children’s best interests in mind.  

If this is unsuccessful then mediation could be attempted (providing an exemption does not apply). This is where a trained neutral third party works with the family to help them reach an agreement. This is less formal than court proceedings and encourages a collaborative approach to find a solution. It is less expensive that court proceedings.  Mediation is voluntary, so ultimately you may still need to go through court proceedings if the parents do not engage.

Court proceedings should only be considered as a last resort, but once other avenues have been attempted you may want to consider an application for a Child Arrangements Order. This is an order setting out who a child lives with and what time they spend with certain people.

Grandparents do not have an automatic legal right to make this application, therefore they need to seek the court’s permission.

The court will consider a number of factors when considering whether to grant permission. These include:-

  1. The grandparent’s involvement in the child’s life.
  2. The parent’s views on contact.
  3. Any safeguarding risks.
  4. Why the application has been made.
  5. Any negative impact the contact will have on the rest of the family.

If the court grant permission the next step would be the court determining whether contact should take place. The main priority of the court is the welfare of the child and there are a number of factors they will take into account (known as the welfare checklist).

This will include:-

  1. The child’s wishes and feelings, depending on their age and understanding.
  2. Their physical, emotional and educational needs.
  3. The likely effect of any change in circumstances.
  4. Their age, sex, background and any characteristics the court considers relevant.
  5. Any harm they have suffered or likely to suffer.

If the court considers it is in the child’s best interests then they are likely to make an order for the child to spend time with you.

Help- I want my grandchild to live with me

If you have concerns about your grandchild’s safety in the care of their parent or parents you may be seeking an order for your grandchild to live with you. If there are significant safeguarding reasons it may be possible to claim an exemption from attending mediation. It would be advisable to discuss your concerns with a legal advisor.

You can apply to the court for a child arrangements order for the child to live with you. The process would be the same as applying for a child arrangements order to spend time with your grandchild and the court would consider the same principles as above in both considering whether permission is granted and whether an order should be made.

If the court grant a child arrangements order for your grandchild to live with you then you will obtain parental responsibility for the child. This means you will have all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authorities which by law a parents of a child has in relation to the child and the child’s property [S.3(1) Children Act 1989. In practical terms this means you can make day to day decisions about the upbringing of the child, including consent to medical treatment, educational decisions and taking the child on holiday abroad.  When there are big decisions to make, such as which school the child attends you will need consult with the other persons who have parental responsibility.

In certain situations, it may be appropriate to make an application for a Special Guardianship Order. This could be in the event the Local Authority are seeking to remove the children from their parent’s care or in private law proceedings where the children reside with a grandparent on a permanent basis. This would provide an enhanced level of parental responsibility than a child arrangements order.  The Local Authority will need to complete an assessment and provide a report to the court. The court will again consider the welfare checklist and the child’s welfare will be the paramount concern.

We can help

If you are seeking either contact with your grandchild or for your grandchild to live with you please contact Ringrose Law Children Department who can offer further advice on 01522 561020 or email

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