Originally under the Childrens Act 1989 there was great emphasis placed on the rights of parents but as the cases have evolved, a greater emphasis has been placed on the role of grandparents and the wider family in a child’s upbringing. The role of a grandparent, if available, is vital to a child’s upbringing and often during disputes over children the grandparents can soon be forgotten and in some cases a grandparent may lose contact altogether with their grandchild.
What are Grandparents rights?
Grandparents do not have automatic rights to contact with their grandchild. However with the leave of the Court, they are able to make an application for contact and the Courts do recognise that they have a valuable role to play in the upbringing of the child therefore unless there is evidence to the contrary such as violence or abuse, usually the Courts will allow grandparents an Order to see their grandchildren for contact or indeed for residence if this is necessary.
If a grandparent has lost contact with their grandchild and wants to regain that contact, they have the right to apply for permission (leave) to apply for a Contact Order. Cases like this may arise if one of the child’s parents has died, or the parents have split up and contact not in place.
If a grandparent applies and is successful then as a grandparent they have the ability to then apply for a Contact Order to see their grandchild. It is important at this stage that grandparents seek legal advice, as we can help explain the process to you, understand the relationships and background to the case and support you through each step of the way. Depending on the situation, if both parents object to the grandparents applying for a Contact Order then this could result in a full hearing, where supporting evidence and Witness Statements will be required.
Often situations like this can be very emotional, stressful and frustrating. We strongly encourage people to avoid taking any action they may later regret and contact our family team straight away so we can advise on the best steps going forward.
If the Contact Order is made, it will clearly set out the level of contact permitted e.g. visits, phone calls, letters etc.
If a Contact Order isn’t successful, an option is to apply for “indirect contact” where you would be able to write to your grandchild, send birthday cards, Christmas cards etc.
In cases where a parent is unfit to look after a child, the Courts will always look to the wider family to see who can provide that support. In this instance, as a grandparent with leave, you would be able to apply for a Residence Order. This sets out where a child will live and who the primary carer will be.
If relationships have broken down but going to Court seems like an option you would rather avoid, we can offer our Mediation Services to you. This would involve one of our specialist Mediators sitting down with the parents and grandparents of the child to try and agree contact for the grandchild. We have found in the past that this can be a good environment for each party to express their views constructively and reach an amicable decision without the costs and time factors involved with going to Court.
We can help
Remember the child’s best interests are the most important thing to consider and a Court will only make a decision that is in the best interests of the child.
Often we are asked by our clients, “What are Grandparents Rights?” If you are a Grandparent or parent and want to talk to one of our team or find out more about grandparents rights then please do not hesitate to contact us.